How do you grieve over a significant loss? For me, it boils down to two things: trying to survive the intense pain and sadness, and the desperate effort to figure out whatever is next. The first one requires comforting. The second one requires determination.
I don’t know how you can avoid the painful part. Melanie and I still cry almost every day. We miss Elijah so much our bones ache. But as painful as it feels, we try not to resist the emotions. After all, even Jesus wept. He grieved the loss of his beloved friend, Lazarus. When those who were at the grave site saw Jesus weep over his friend, they said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36).
When we love someone, we want to be with them. Separation saddens us. Permanent separation feels paralyzing. So those who comfort us over the death of our son will often remind us that our ‘permanent’ separation is really only ‘temporary.’
Jesus offered that very same comfort, even while he was grieving. He told Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Nothing takes away the permanence of death like the assurance of life after death. And what better hope than to be comforted by the very one who can fulfill the promise of resurrection.
But if you need to be comforted by someone besides Jesus himself, you’ll find it from a child. Children know when we are sad. And their words of encouragement are pure. Our two year old granddaughter Ellie would often greet Melanie and me by putting her hands on our cheeks, looking into our eyes and saying, “Don’t be sad. Yijah’s in heaven. Yijah’s with Jesus.“
The picture for this post was one I recently took of Ellie and Mimi (Melanie) talking about Elijah. Whether it’s an enthusiastic hug, a tender conversation or laughing together, a young child is like medicine for the heart. Sometimes the greatest comfort comes by just hearing of what Ellie says when we aren’t even there. My daughter Tina shared with me Ellie’s comments one day when they were chatting. Ellie was saying, “I love Papa. He makes me laugh. He’s so funny. He makes me happy. Papa sad. Papa sad because of Yijah. Mimi misses Yijah and Papa misses Yijah, and Papa misses us.“
There is something deeply comforting in the simplicity of understanding and the trusting heart of a child. No wonder that Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
There are a lot of people who have said to me, “Don’t be sad.” But when little Ellie says that, my sadness turns to joy. I feel like I become a little child, too. And we both end up giggling together.
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