Still Grieving 18 Months on
Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore
It’s been a year and a half since my grandmother passed away, and I still cannot bear to think about her. It is said that you should not deny your feelings or suppress them, but confront them and deal with them. But I can’t.
Just thinking about her and the times we shared brings so much pain that I consciously suppress any thoughts or memories of her. We were really close, and every time something interesting happens, I feel like I want to share it with her. But I can’t. Even as I write this, the words seem to blur and I have to blink away the tears.
She died suddenly, at the age of 93, after a fall. Yes, she was old. Yes, she had been diagnosed with cancer some months before. Yes, death is inevitable, and you could say she had more than her share of a full life. But death never makes sense, and neither does grief.
Every shred of logic tells me that it was good she went this way—with little pain—and that it was something I would have to go through sooner or later. And that sudden death meant that she was spared the painful ravages of later-stage cancer.
But the heart behaves differently. Twenty months after the shock, I am still grieving. Yes, the pain is less intense than the cold stab in the heart that I used to feel physically. Yes, I can even go for days—weeks, even—without thinking about my grandma once. But it still hurts when the image of my grandma’s face comes, or the memory of her voice. It hurts a lot. So much, that I need to shove it down, deep into the recesses of my heart, in the hope that the pain will die there someday. Twenty months later, I am still asking, Why?
I still haven’t received any answer. In the first devastating week after my grandma’s death, God had comforted me with a simple fact. He had not explained why. Instead, all He had said was, I’m in charge. He had said: Things may not make sense to you, but they make sense to Me. You just have to trust Me.
Strangely, that was comforting enough. My grief didn’t go away, nor did the pain, nor the questions that rang continuously through my mind. But comfort came from the knowledge that I could leave my questions—and answers—to God. If He allowed it to happen, I figured, then He must have had a reason. Even if I couldn’t see it or didn’t understand it, I had to trust that this reason was perfect, because God is perfect.
Twenty months later, this fact is still true, and this knowledge is still comforting.
How? To me, knowing that God is in complete control all the time means that even though I am unable to see or understand when something goes wrong in life, I can trust that there is a good reason for it. Even though I am hurting or suffering right now, I know that whatever happens, is in line with God’s greater purposes—not that He causes bad things to happen, but that He allows it for a purpose. And even though I may never get to understand this purpose in this life (perhaps I will when I see finally Him, perhaps not), I can trust God has only my best interests at heart.
The oft-quoted Romans 8:28 says that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.
The verse doesn’t say that everything will turn out well in the end. Paul wrote this when he was imprisoned in Rome, and I’m sure he didn’t expect his situation to improve. Also, he specified what that “good” was—in the next verse, he refers to God’s predestining us “to be conformed to the image of his Son”. I guess that’s an answer to my question. Why did this have to happen? So that you’ll be like My Son. How does that work? You’ll have to trust Me on that.
But God didn’t just leave me with this truth, and walk away. In the initial days and weeks of grief, and in the months that followed, He gave me strength and comfort to get through the pain and the overwhelming sense of loss. He gave me physical, mental and emotional rest, so that I was able to sleep. He gave me the strength to focus on other things in life, so that my life would not grind to a halt. He gave me the warm love, comfort, and encouragement of others, so that I was constantly reminded that I was not walking alone, and that others had walked this painful path too. And He gave me moments of joy, when I could still rejoice and smile.
I have been told many times that suffering can strengthen us, teach us something about life, or prepare us for something greater. I believe this is true, but sometimes, it’s hard to accept wholeheartedly. There may be times when there’s no apparent reason to suffer. When something happens that is not a result of what we do. When nothing we go through appears to be something that will train or strengthen us. When the pain and grief that we go through really don’t seem to make any sense.
Those are the times when we cling on to the only truth that matters, and the strength and comfort that we know we will receive. Trust Me, My child. I know the answers, and I’m in charge. And I will be with you. Just trust Me.
Another verse I find comforting is John 11:35. It’s the story of Lazarus. Lazarus had died, and his sisters Mary and Martha tell Jesus “if only you had come earlier you could have healed him.” John 11:35 is probably the shortest verse of the Bible, “Jesus wept.”
I find it comforting that even though, as you remind us, God works all things for the good of those who love Him, and even though He knows how everything will ultimately come together (Jesus proceeded to raise Lazarus from the dead), He still cares for us, and knows how we feel, and acknowledges our grief and anger and confusion.
Jesus wept. That my Savior would sit with me and hold me and weep with me, is so very powerful and comforting.
I pray for you as you continue to grapple with your loss.
hi Christine, thank you very much for your words and your prayers. You are so right… It is comforting to know that Jesus weeps with us, that He knows how we feel, and feels what we feel too. Appreciate the thought 🙂