What Good Grief Looks Like When a Daughter Dies
One thing I have noticed about this unfathomable good grief is that any little incident can trigger it. When I see a party, I think of the one Christy gave me for my 60th birthday, and I cry. When I walk by her room and see the glitter stars on the ceiling glowing at night, I cry. When I see her picture, any picture, I cry. When I walk in the house from our garage, I see the pencil marks where we measured Christy's and David's heights as they grew, and I cry. And it's okay. Men need to let themselves grieve just as much as women do.
Here is one paradox of grieving. Grieving, for a Christian, is about you. We are not grieving because someone is pain-free in heaven with the Lord! That's cause for celebration! We are not grieving the condition of the Christian loved one who is deceased. For the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. There is nothing grave in that. No, we are grieving for our own sense of loss, our own sorrow over the sudden departure, our own feelings of being alone. Grief is the self's shock over what has happened to itself, and the shock is both physical and emotional.
Something is wrong, terribly and profoundly wrong, if we have no capacity to mourn the passing of someone we have loved with all our heart. In other words, it takes a strong person to weep and not be afraid to show your mortality and vulnerability. Our macho culture doesn't get that. There may be "no crying in baseball," but there is in life. We need to let ourselves grieve. Among other things it makes us more humane and compassionate with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that others experience.
So, if you see me and I am a bit teary, it's okay. God is reminding me of the eternity he's placed in my heart. And he's helping me appreciate the depths of what I miss: Christy.
Yes, if a Christian's grieving goes on perpetually, it becomes apparent that the person is too self-absorbed. Perhaps you are enjoying a pity party, enjoying all the attention and sympathy it brings not to your departed loved one but to you! I have ministered to people like that. I remember an elderly woman who, even though her husband had died 30 years previously, still had not gotten beyond his passing. Instead, she was dwelling on the past wistfully while missing the opportunity to go on living positively. Much though I tried, I couldn't talk or pray her out of her funk. Her experience of grief had made her bitter, not better.
What does it mean, then, to grieve as one who has hope? It means we grieve with one eye forever fixed on the eschatological horizon—that is, looking to the end of history. It means we grieve knowing that resurrection will reverse death. It means we grieve knowing that death will not have the last word. Paul reminds us of the old saying, "Who hopes for what they already have?" (Rom. 8:24). The hope to which he refers is not something we possess now in a fully realized form. While I may have comfort and solace and peace now, none of this is my hope.
My hope is in nothing less than a dramatic reversal of death in the flesh. My hope is not even just in the Risen One, though that is true enough, but in his promise to raise from the dead those who are in Christ. Nothing less than this is my hope. So as I grieve for Christy, I do so in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. I cannot wait to see her new resurrection form! If she is any more bright and beautiful than she is in the photo here, I will need strong sunglasses to view her.