It was sudden, unexpected... anticipated, but somehow catching us off-guard... there's something about the death of a loved one that hits on a level like no other impact. Volumes have been written through the centuries as people grieve from death's intrusion, yet still we write...for, the intensity of such loss extracts reaction at the deepest emotional point we own.
As the old adage goes, "Everyone has a story." True. And especially when death invades our experience, we feel forced to tell, compelled to tell, to convey best we know how the inexpressible emptiness.
As a kid I never could understand why adults go to so much trouble to "see someone," traveling miles and miles, going through so much effort, money, and extended time just to be there for a short while. I didn't grasp the truth I now know: there's power in presence. And, in time of loss by death, the opposite comes crashing in, too: there's power in absence.
It's there, the absence, that the grieving is greatest... the emotional roller coaster we generally ride between gratitude for having had the loved one with us, and the crashed & crushed wreck we become when missing him/her the most. It's missing that hits the hardest. Time heals many things, yes...but even years (Dad has been gone 30..) often do not dim the memory or lessen the ache of absence's wound.
Perspective is pretty much everything. How we choose (yes, a conscious decision) to view our loss can make for either an ongoing fog of life, or a bearable (even victorious!) means of moving on. Three perspectives present themselves: (1.) we can focus on us, (2.) the person who passed, or (3.) the Lord.
(1.) Our world's system (supervised by Satan) deals in self... everything is about us. Even the smug non-Christians who mention a spiritual dimension at all speak of God in tones & terms that center on us. "If you believe in a higher Power, that's wonderful... it will help you cope, and center your awareness of life's mysteries, thereby enabling you to better accept your natural grieving." (after all, that's God's purpose for existence, isn't it?....to help us!)
For many, there is no need to mention God at all, for they have no use for, nor experience with Him. Yet, for all their spiritual blindness, lost folk are not stupid...they understand that completely focusing on themselves is counter-productive after a while. So, interwoven in and through the grieving is (2.) the attempt to focus on the deceased.
Monuments, plaques, memorials, online ongoing obituaries... all attempts to keep the memory alive (at any cost, for some folk). These can have benefit, helping some to heal, but can also easily slip over into idolatry, perpetuating sentimental false memories, and extend the grieving process by preventing closure. This perspective is still horizontal, failing to address the inner God-shaped vacuum every person has...which can be filled only by Him.
(3.) The change the Lord Jesus makes in people's lives is thorough. In the Person of the Holy Spirit He takes up residence within us... transforming our priorities, our very personalities, and thus our perspective. And, as our view of life is changed, it makes sense that our view of death is altered, too. After all, we have the Spirit of the death-conquering King! His presence and His Word assure us that nothing happens by accident...that our losses never occur outside His sovereign control. This does not mean we do not grieve. It means we do not have to grieve "as do the rest who have no hope," (I Thessalonians 4:13). May we evermore learn the truth that He is enough, He is sufficient to meet us at the point of our deepest need. And may we praise Him regardless of what we feel, honoring Him as He is worthy, speaking well of His goodness whether in life or death.