For years I thought grief was about people dying. A parent, friend, spouse dies and you grieve.
I’ve had limited experience with grief.
One of my closest friends died before she was 50. I’m not sure I ever accepted the cancer would take her life. Fortunately, we had moved to where we were only an hour away and I could see her but when her physical being was taken it didn’t hit as I thought it would.
Because much of my life, particularly adolescence, was spent moving from state to state I questioned if this made physical loss harder for me to connect with. Seldom were goodbye’s said when we moved. When you’ve lived somewhere only six months you’re there and then you’re gone.
I landed in Florida at 17 years old. It became my home for 30 years before we were transferred to Tennessee. That’s when I learned grief has other meanings. I really think I grieved all of the familiar that was left behind.
I’ve come to wonder if we should do more grief counseling in our program. It’s there for the the loss of someone but what about other kinds of loss. Is there grief from not using?
I have talked about it with the men at times. Missing the people, the places, the routine. It sounds crazy but something in me says some may grieve even the symptoms of the disease that has brought them here.
And how do I tell them to fill that missing? Was it Pascal that said we all have a God-sized vacuum in us? The only thing that can fill that emptiness is God.
I believe that but know too often how I’ve tried to fill that with the other. The other of attention. The other of friends and family. How can I tell them to do something I wrestle with.
But I do. I tell them I struggle, I know what it’s like to have that empty spot. But they know it’s not the same for me. It’s not an empty spot that has caused their family to turn away or caused them to lose a job.
Still, I want them to know Jesus can fill that spot but how do I convince men that have not known unconditional love? Not known forgiveness or mercy or grace? If you can’t forgive or accept forgiveness can you know grace?
I am not undaunted by this. I will continue to look behind their eyes and see the hurt and loss. It comes to me even now that to tell them about Jesus is to show them Jesus. Just a little, Lord, please just a little, may they see you in my smile and hear you in my voice. To see Jesus in our Center and then to know him, yes, to know the Lover of our soul, the Giver of all grace.