Grief: Identity or Emotion

October 15, 2014


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I work with people who are suffering.  In fact, each of the people with whom I have worked have experienced some level of suffering.  Their marriage may be in shambles.  They may struggle with guilt.  There may be others who hurt them deeply.

So we talk about suffering in our time together.

In many of these cases we also deal with the related topic of grief.  We grieve our losses. 

In some ways this is a particularly appropriate topic for me as Laura and I both wrestle through grief because of the death’s of our first spouses. 
I will not speak for Laura here-perhaps she will in the future-but I am going to speak for myself.

When Ann died I felt like the life had been sucked out of me.  I was in shock.  It was all I could do just to continue breathing.  There are certainly powerful emotions in play as I faced my new reality- confusion, sorrow, and so much more.

But grief is more than dealing with my emotions.  It also deals with our identity.

One of the big issues I faced was understanding who I was and continue to be after my loss.  I am still the same man in many ways:  I am still father and grandfather; I am still son and brother; I am also friend. 

But, I am no longer Ann’s husband. 

Many of the close friends who had walked through much of my life with me lived across the country.  I was in a new place, without those friends, and was in a painful new life. 

The way I have described this to many is that my story changed.  I had to adjust to my new story. 

I had to learn my new story. 

I had to become familiar and comfortable with my new identity. 

At the same time God’s story, the grand story, has not changed in the least.  The task for those of us living with grief is to adjust to our new story, while seeing how our changed story still fits into the grand story we have only known in part. 

After Ann’s death I have come to see the grand story in new ways.  I have a stronger focus on eternity than I ever did before.  I have come to love the beauty of the truth that my time in this life is amazing and important, but I will spend the overwhelming majority of my existence in heaven with Jesus, with all who have gone before and will follow afterward.  I have lost contact with Ann for the rest of this period of my life.  She is free of grief.  She is free from contact with a world warped by evil and suffering.  She is with Jesus.

I hope I have to come to peace with that reality. 

I will, however, spend eternity with all those who love Jesus and dwell together in the new heavens and the new earth.  That makes the struggles of this life somehow easier to endure.

I also have come to see that in this life there are still many huge blessings for me and I am not completely focused on eternity.  Laura and I can share the joys and sorrows of both the lives we have lived, and the life we are now living.  We have so much here in this life.  That is part of seeing the grand story from a new perspective. 

Laura’s first husband, Chris,  has shaped her and given me the gift of a wife I adore.  She is who she is because of the life she and Chris shared, the experiences she has had with him, her kids, her extended family, and everyone who has shaped her. 

Ann has also shaped me to be the husband I am for Laura. 

We share with each other our memories, stories, and thoughts about Ann and Chris because in our marriage we are giving ourselves, our new identities built on the foundation of our earlier identities, to each other.  We talk about this frequently and smile about how God has prepared us through joys and sorrows to be who we are today. 

There will always be pictures of our earlier lives in our home.  I smile when I see pictures of Laura and Chris.  I know she is much more than comfortable when she looks at pictures of Ann and me. 

We still grieve losses that will not be restored in this life, but for now, as we are here, and we are joyfully living.

More to come,