Grief Can't Name You
My aunt, my mom's youngest sister, passed away recently after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
I was grateful to see her a couple of weeks ago--a visit filled with joy amid the sorrowful reality that she was dying. We gathered for a meal with as many family members who were able to come, and we laughed, reminisced, and she reveled in it.
One of the most curious and unsettling things about the visit was how much my aunt looked and sounded like my late mother. The way she talked, laughed, and her mannerisms were so eerily familiar.
I wasn't expecting the flood of emotions that came as I listened to her talk, watched her gestures, and felt all over again the loss of my mom and the realization that I would probably never see my aunt again in this life.
I also felt tremendous regret that I hadn't visited my aunt and talked to her more regularly over the past several years since my mom passed.
I realized that one of the many reasons I hadn't was because she reminded me so much of my mother, and because I'd been enmeshed in my own struggle with grief, I missed out on the chance to be more present with her.
Sometimes we get so attached to our feelings of loss that we don't know who we would be without them. They can come to define us.
I recently read this great quote from James Finley that resonated with me:
If you’re in sorrow and utter loss, don’t become attached to the experience of yourself in moments of utter loss. Rather, be detached from your loss. It’s real—but know that the loss doesn’t have the authority to name who you are, for only the infinite generosity of God giving itself to you in this very moment has the authority to name who you are. So, the loss is real. Feel it; it’s real. But don’t yield to its claim to carry you off...
The difficult task of feeling grief without being carried off by it is one that many of us handle poorly at best.
We can far too quickly become people of grief, letting it define us, name us, and cover our every action in some way, shape, or form.
But even though our feelings of sorrow and loss should be felt, they ought to be acknowledged; they don't have to define us. As Finley writes, they don't have the "authority to name who you are."
That authority is held by a God who loves us beyond our imagination and restores, renews, and resurrects what we imagine might be left for dead.
We are not people of grief; we are people of the Resurrection.
And when we begin to internalize this truth, we can live more fully into our feelings of grief that we should rightly feel, but that should not leave us in denial, anger, or depression.
If they lead us at all, they should lead us to the kind of acceptance that comes when we know that we are ultimately led by a God who empties tombs, raises us to renewed life, and is never done making all things new.
So if you are experiencing the pain of loss today, be encouraged. It doesn't name you. God does. And your name is Beloved. Your name is Risen.
Your loved ones, dreams, and longings that seemingly faded from existence will live again. God doesn't let a little thing like death get in the way of getting what God ultimately wants for you, me, and all of Creation.
May you live today in the warm glow of this knowledge. May you be free from the false authority of real and imagined grief. May you find new life today and every day from this day, and be at peace.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.