When I wrote Pieces in Time I was faced with several questions about death, dying, loss, and grief. While these words were familiar, and their meanings almost obvious, I nevertheless found myself asking if there was more to their meanings than the way they were traditionally interpreted.
To most people death simply means the end of life. Plants die, animals die, and people die. Traditionally, when the heart stops beating, life is over. However, as I reflected on this definition I came to the understanding that many things not considered to be living also die. For example, relationships can die. A marriage that began as healthy and thriving can come to an unfortunate end. The same can be said for friendships when two people who were once close slowly drift apart until they no longer interact with one another. In this manner, death has come to the relationship.
When death comes to such things, there is almost always a sense of loss and grief by one or both parties involved. That death can hurt just as bad as the loss of someone we love whose life has come to an end. I remember when I found out that my grandmothers had Alzheimer’s and dementia. While they had not physically passed away, I quickly came to the realization that my relationship with them had begun to die. With this realization came the beginning of my grief.
I think a lot of people don’t realize just how much they hurt as a relationship passes away. Relationships die slowly, and over time our feelings of loss and grief slowly take over a portion of our lives, and take root in our hearts. In the case of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia there is the initial shock and grief that comes with knowing something terrible has begun to take over their lives. As time goes by, though, and the imminent loss draws closer, our grief increases. I think we get used to that grief as it increases. As it does, I believe it can seem to sneak up on us. The truth, however, is that grief over the loss of a loved one has been with us the entire time without being dealt with.
Rather than pushing aside our feelings and waiting for the inevitable to come, we should allow ourselves to grieve from the moment we first experience loss. Grieving takes time, and there are many stages to grief. Not everyone is going to go through those stages the same way. Grieving is necessary, and is healthy in many ways, and on many levels. It is a very natural reaction to loss, and God’s way of healing our broken hearts.