In those early months after Lynn's death, when the cushioning bubble of shock and denial remained intact, loneliness was like a dark enemy, peering around corners, sneaking toward me in empty hallways. I kept him at arms length, unable to swallow the raw wickedness of his presence. He waited patiently for loss to take over, for reality to set in, to assume his position as dreadful companion, unwelcome yet unavoidable guest…
Being alone is the most terrible, awful, wretched state of existence.
I have been alone for 14 months and 19 days. Not really very long in the grand scheme of things. But I have come to know this loneliness as my worst enemy… and my greatest fear.
Part of the "adjustment" of the bereaved as they "progress" through their grief, is living with the emptiness in their life that was once filled with an individual. That loved one, as a dynamically created human being, took up space in this world that only he/she can fill. At first, the emptiness is all-consuming. All the bereaved can see is death and loss. Sometimes people have said to me, Well, [so and so] lost a spouse and a child. And [so and so] lost all their children. You just need to recognize that your loss isn't that bad. But for the one grieving a loved one, it doesn't matter. To be honest, it doesn't even matter to them that tsunamis have struck and wiped out tens of thousands. They are all-consumed by this massive void that has taken up residence in their lives. It is massively out of proportion. It is irrational. It may even be unfair. But until you know the feeling of a real live person being ripped out of your heart, stolen by death or some other circumstance, you will not understand. And that's ok.
The "progression" of grief is when that all-consuming void slowly but surely gets "put back into perspective". It NEVER goes away because that loved one, in my case Lynn, is NEVER coming back this side of heaven and NO ONE can enter in, touch, feel, or understand the emptiness in his place. This is the cold burning* sensation of grief, the finality of death, the icy-cold-bitter-while-burning-like-hot-coals sensation.
One of the things I HATE most about this loss is that the only person I could share it with is the person missing. I hate that my parents can't understand my loss. I hate that my siblings can't. I hate that even my kids or best friends can't enter into that place with me that only my husband and I shared. No one can go there with me and feel what I feel. Other widows can go there to an extent, but even still, our relationships and individual spouses and marriages are unique. Therefore, our grief is uniquely crafted around all these unique dynamics that no one else could understand but Lynn. Where I once found communion and intimate fellowship, there is a gaping hole, an icy-cold-bitter-while-burning-like-hot-coals sensation… and I HATE it.
I've realized recently that loneliness has been a real challenge for me with my girls (not only personally for obvious reasons). I walked along side them through their grief, hours of screaming, days and months of crying for Daddy, but my daughters cannot reciprocate the favour (not that I ever intended to view motherhood as a favour…). They cannot fathom my own grief, and even though they are my closest family, closest to who Lynn was and who we were together, they cannot go there with me. They are too young. They are just kids. They cannot understand. They don't go easy on me when I'm having a really hard day. They don't bear with me when I just want to talk about Lynn or look at pictures. They want to play and have fun and move on like normal children. This makes me feel even more alone, even more aware of Lynn's absence, and the bitter-cold-burning sensation even more bitter.
Loneliness is something many of us feel (all of us!), from a variety of circumstance. Sometimes in relationships, sometimes in the loss of relationships we've never had the privilege of having… Loneliness is a terrible reality of the Fall. It is evidence of humanity's brokenness, apart from God. It is symptomatic of separation. As the body needs food and water, the soul needs fellowship and intimate communion. To be without it is like starving.
Misty Edwards sings, I'd rather sit in the house of mourning, than at the table with food. Blessed are the hungry. You said it, I believe it. Hunger is an escort to deeper things of You. You satisfy… (Soul Cry, album Fling Wide)
God's saving grace promises a new fellowship in a redeemed oneness shared with the triune God. This dynamic God is said to satisfy all my needs and desires. For this reason, when I am filled with God's Holy Spirit, I cannot be starving.
Blessed are the hungry… I am lonely, but I am hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Like fasting, I choose to starve my human soul, trusting that God will Open up His hands and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:16)
As the dear pants for streams of water, so my soul longs to be satisfied in the Lord.
North American Christians always think that if we have faith, we'll be happy. If we claim the promises of God, all our pain will vanish. Loss tells us that though God's promises are real and true, but they fit into a much bigger picture than our own individual happiness. God satisfies me in the Spirit, but that doesn't diminish my human desire for arms that once held me, the companionship Lynn and I had shared, the presence of another person so intimately involved in my life. Two are better than one (Ecc 4:9). This is the truth.
It is not good for man to be alone. (Gen 2:18)
*Lament for a Son