Anniversaries of Grief and a Year of Firsts
Image by Manie Van der Hoven from Pixabay

Anniversaries are usually celebrated. They often mark days we want to remember. Days of joy that make us thankful. Birthdays. Wedding anniversaries. Adoption days.

But we mark some anniversaries reluctantly. Wishing the day did not exist. Hoping it’s all just a bad dream. The memory of those days brings grief, not celebration. Sadness, not joy. We look back, not ahead.

This past week contained one of those days for me. It marked the first anniversary of my husband’s graduation to heaven. “Graduation to heaven” sounds so much better than “death.” But it doesn’t change the fact that, either way, decades of marriage are suddenly gone.

You probably have similar anniversaries in your own life.

The loss of someone precious.

A traumatic accident.

The end of a marriage or other long-term relationship.

This kind of anniversary represents an event thrust upon us. A day we have no choice as to whether to accept. It’s there. The elephant in the room.

So what’s the point? If God uses all things to work together for the ultimate good of His children (Romans 8:28), how do we process these events? How can they possibly work good in and for us?

Here’s some of the “good” I experienced this past year:

  • The end of myself as I’ve learned reliance on my heavenly Father in a new & deeper way.
  • Development of perseverance when it’s difficult or lonely or I’m just plain weary.
  • Learning humility in asking for help.
  • Accepting a new identity as I’ve had to check a new box: widow. Yet married or widowed, both labels are overridden by my most important identity: a child of God
  • Cultivating a new perspective of the future by accepting uncertainty and embracing God’s sovereignty.
  • And finally, appreciating the reality that heaven feels closer and more real because a part of my heart is there.

As I wrote in a recent social media post:

One year today.
One year since my life partner was called Home.
One year that can feel like one day, and other times, one decade.

One year of living without the one who divided my sorrows and multiplied my joys.
One year of pursuing challenges without my strongest cheerleader. 
One year of learning to live without the one who loved me unconditionally, covered my weaknesses, and celebrated my strengths.

One year of swimming in the sea of my heavenly Father’s grace through His Son, Jesus.
One year of finding comfort in the Holy Spirit who showed me how to enjoy the gift of shared love, and who shows me how to rest in His peace now that it’s gone.

One year of living in hope, looking forward to the day when years will never be counted again.

How are you processing the losses in your life?
How has God grown you in the process?

This is Not Our Home

Three of my friends lost their mother this past weekend. Three times in two days, I received a message saying John or Pat or Sonia’s mother died.

These three losses remind me that death cuts through all the things we think are important, and bares what is truly important. It also causes us to examine what we claim to believe.

This is not our home.

And yet…it’s the only home we know.

I Corinthians 15:55 (NIV) tells us, Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

And yet…it does sting when we lose someone we love, doesn’t it?

The Puritan, Thomas Watson, once said, “What a wicked man fears, a godly man hopes for.”

And yet…if we admit it, few of us actually hope for death.

 So where does this leave us?

The Bible tells us there are two ways to grieve: with hope or without hope. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13).

This world is nothing more than a glorified bus station on our way to our true destination. But that destination depends on whether we have the assurance of a relationship with God in Christ. For those who die without a restored relationship with God, we grieve without hope that we will see them again.

That’s not politically correct according to a culture that says there are many paths to God. Yet, Christ said, “I am the way…,” not, “I am a way…” (John 14:6). Either He was a liar or He is, indeed the only way.

But if our loved one had a restored relationship with God in Christ, then we grieve with hope. We have the assurance that nothing – not even death – can come between us and the One who loves us – and them. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25). This is more than just a statement. It’s a promise.

Our grief is natural, but not without hope. We may grieve, but we grieve our loss, not theirs. We grieve our pain, not theirs. We grieve our loneliness, not theirs.

Thomas Watson also said, “The world is but a great inn, where we are to stay a night or two, and be gone; what madness is it to set our heart upon our inn, as to forget our home.” Today we might say, “what madness is it to set our heart upon our motel, as to forget our home.”

May we enjoy the motel, but remember our destination. Through our tears, let’s take comfort in knowing that loved ones who died in Christ have already safely arrived.

How have you experienced God’s comfort in the loss of a loved one?