Letter: Grief never truly leaves us

From: John Brooks


It has been six years since my wife Pam passed away. It has been four weeks since Daisy, my basset hound, passed away. With every loss comes new insight and wisdom.

Unfortunately, we also find our hearts filled with pain, sorrow, sadness and loneliness. Our lives are consumed by the process of grief. I read a lot of material about grief and a common term I have found is “new normal.” The idea is that as we “work” our way through grief, we are transformed into a new person more capable to deal with our loss. My problem is, I do not want to be a different person, I want to be me. Thomas Merton, in "The New Man," writes, “to be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves."

This “new normal” often builds on the idea that time heals all pain, sadness, unhappiness, loneliness, sorrow and broken hearts. The problem is, it isn’t true. Just as feeling the pain of a broken bone returns when the weather changes or we stress it, a broken heart once filled with the pain of loss, sadness, loneliness or sorrow mends but never truly heals.

Eventually we find that who we were is who we still are; revealing our richness, wisdom, kindness, compassion, understanding, forgiveness and love that never left our hearts. Walking on our path becomes a little smoother, our hearts a little calmer, our outlook a little brighter, our faith a little stronger, our eyes a little clearer. We discover our loss to be a piece of a bigger, beautiful puzzle — a stroke of God’s brush on his canvas, a drop of rain falling in and cascading down a waterfall into a crystal clear stream, a dot of light among the multitudes illuminating the night sky. We learn to enjoy the beauty, wonder and love that surrounds us every day; the smell of a beautiful flower, a bird singing his song, the explosion of color and beauty of a morning sunrise or evening sunset, the rainbow after a cool spring shower, the healing found in a loving hug, a kind word, a friendly smile or a held hand.

As nature endures the pain of the seasons, she takes time to rest and rebuild. Having endured the steaminess of summer, the starkness of fall, and cold of winter, spring emerges not as something new but as herself. Stronger from the trials she has endured; she has made a few changes.

Nature, as does life, requires change. Our grief also gives rise to change. As the sun rises on a new day, life springs forth from the darkness. From the darkness of our grief springs forth a hopeful eye to the future and smiles of the past that light a familiar path.

Some think that you can’t recapture lost happiness and peace experienced in grief, those are the ones listening for a God that shouts and not a God that whispers.