Q My friend’s husband died six years ago, and she’s still grieving and says life is empty without him. Shouldn’t she have moved on by now?
A common assumption is that grief diminishes with time and that we ‘move on’, away from it. But grief, sharp and visceral, does not diminish. It becomes less dominant as our life grows larger around it, and we become altered. But it can be triggered at any time.
Prolonged grief can lead to depression. One of the symptoms is difficulty engaging and reintegrating in ongoing life, and this prevents the ‘resizing’ balance that changes perspective. It could be that this is what is happening with your friend.
It’s good that you are here for your friend and can listen with empathy. But don’t suggest that she should have moved on by now. You will have pointed her to Heaven, and reminded her that because of Calvary we are living on a timeline that extends beyond the physical to eternity. It may be that she feels her loss in the here and now is too great to bear. Counselling with an experienced Christian counsellor might help, remembering that as Christians we view death differently (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
A few years ago my youngest son died when he lost his battle with leukaemia, and eight weeks later my 19-year-old grandson was killed in a motorcycle accident. Luke and I were very close, and to compound it, he was so much like his uncle. I found the most healing element of grief, apart from the Holy Spirit, is the people God puts around you.
Also, the Holy Spirit brought the Scriptures, with all their truths and promise, to life for me. On Luke’s birthday his mum and dad and I laid flowers and prayed at the crash site, and we will do the same in the Garden of Remembrance for my son. Our grief is as deep as ever, but our flowers and prayers confirm that although my son and grandson are lost to us here, we will be together again one day. It also helps that this is something practical we can do.
There are things we can do to cope with bereavement. My little booklet Coping with Grief and Loss describes stepping stones through the grief journey. It has had very positive feedback. Do get a couple of copies.