There is a delicate balance in grief between the remembering and the letting go. It is not at all wrong to remember our loved ones, to cherish their memories and to miss the moments we had with them. In fact, that is a good and healthy thing. Those memories are, after all, a big part of what shaped us. It is not okay, though, to hold onto that in a way that turns missing into resentment.
Loss, whether in the moments immediately following a loss or in the long term, is quite easy to turn into an occasion for anger and resentment. I’ve seen a lot of that in friends, family, and even myself. And part of where it comes from is a lack of perspective.
In my angriest moments, and I suspect yours too, I have seen loss not just as God’s divine, sovereign will, but as His malice toward me personally. I refuse to see any good things about those losses. I hold them up as unfair because someone didn’t live long enough, they didn’t get to see a special occasion, they were too good a person to take. The list goes on and on. I let my anger fester while refusing to see that the life they had was beautiful; it had to be because it made an impact. I refuse to see that God’s purposes are fulfilled always. I refuse to acknowledge that the lingering impact of a life well spent is just as important as that of the life itself. I refuse to admit that perhaps some of the greatest lessons of trust, devotion, and love I have learned have come from the loss of someone I cared for deeply. My perspective is one of: My hurt outranks God’s plans. The problem with that being chiefly that I am looking at myself and not at God. Obviously, we have to consider aspects of ourselves. We need to clothe and bathe ourselves, feed ourselves, and care for our emotional needs. These are truly important things, but we also must understand that perpetually looking only to ourselves with eclipse the work of God in our lives. When we look to Him, the rest tends to take care of itself without our even really noticing.
Our perspective further needs to take into account that eternity is far more important than present. We struggle and suffer here on earth, but 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us that what we struggle through here on earth is nothing in comparison to the wonder and glory of eternity. Is suffering pleasant? Of course not! Is it easy? Not remotely. But it isn’t everything. The ones we’ve lost, if they are believers in the finished work of Jesus Christ, are now in heaven experiencing that eternal glory we can only groan with longing for at this moment. They are rejoicing. They are praising. And while today it may feel like it will take forever, we really will be with them very soon joining in their hymns of worship to our great God. Our perspective needs to look not to the temporary of our time based lives but to the eternal where time will be no more.
This is not at all to say that loss is easy and just get over it. Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t have days where the tears overwhelm us. We are going to miss our loved ones; my children will only have one set of grandparents and that hurts my heart. But that doesn’t mean we have to live in that spot. We can honor their memory; we can celebrate birthdays and home goings. We can talk about memories and lessons. But in those moments, when our perspective is correct, we will experience joy alongside our sadness. It’s not wrong to grieve. Not at all. It is wrong to live only in the grief. You have a life to live; live it. This will honor the memory of those who have gone before.