About three months after my son died, I happened to be riding with a fellow squadron pilot and friend in his car. We were driving north on I-295 from Washington DC to Baltimore, making typical small talk when he suddenly turned to me and asked, “How long are you going to continue grieving for your son?”
Without hesitation, I surprised myself by unthinkingly replying, “As long as he’s still dead.” My friend drew a sharp breath and without a word looked straight forward. Neither of us said another word all the way to Baltimore.
For months, I struggled with discouragement as I pensively contemplated the time that had elapsed since my son’s death. I didn’t want time to pass. I didn’t want time to create distance between my thoughts of my son and me. I had a fear that the more time passed, the easier it would become to go on living without him. This thought was exceedingly stressful, for I didn’t want to go on without him. I was fearfully afraid of forgetting him. I had a recurring nightmare wherein I realized, in a sudden panic, I’d forgotten what he looked like.
I wanted to long for him with as much inconsolable passion as I had at the beginning. I wanted to miss him with as much mental paralysis as I had immediately after his death. Ironically, it was as though I wanted to be as overwhelmed with grief and despair as I had been soon after his death. I wanted the deliciousness of despair, I’d known, to continue surrounding me in its sinister cloak, for its numbing darkness was somehow strangely comforting—shielding me from the reality of my gnawing sorrow and unending pain. Having tasted the bittersweetness of delicious despair, I realized I needed to resume life among the living—for to the dying I could not go—as much as I might have thought I’d prefer it.
It’s a paradox to feel the grief of losing a child and yet determine to live again. It’s a paradox to observe the suffering in the world and yet praise the God of all nations. It’s a paradox to offer words of consolation to a grieving parent while our children are safe and secure in our keeping. Nevertheless, offering words of comfort in pain is important. We assure those in faith that they shall see their loved one again; while we realize it will not bring immediate comfort; it will, in time.
In time, words of faith triumphantly declared during times of acute sorrow will begin to gently soothingly massage the pain away. Relief will likely not be felt immediately. Perhaps soothing relief will not be felt for a long time. No one knows how long it will be. We need not know. But of one thing we can be sure. God knows your pain. He sees you in your agony. If you will only determine to call upon Him in your honest agony, He will hear. He may seem silent, but He will be there. In the darkness, in your numbness, in the pain of your honest sorrow, He will meet you and He will be good to you if you will trust Him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.…
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.