Is Grief Silent?

10/15
((from Bridget))

A friend just posed a question on social media and this is how the dialogue went

“Writing a song.  Need a two syllable adjective describing “pain” in the wake of grief.  Go!!

Here were some of the responses:

“Burning, aching, searing, stoic, pressing, private, crushing, bruising, massive, lonely, gripping, vital, deserved, fallow, gripping, flashing, throbbing, numbing, torment, hollow, brooding, sullen, stirring, stinging, biting, cutting, hemming, brutal, hopeless, and SILENT.”

SILENT.

That one got me.  Grief, being silent?  It didn’t connect at first.  So I kept reading.

“..Grief in my life has been confusing, isolating, and often SILENT out of fear of judgment or of being misunderstood for being in ‘grief’ for too long.  So often pain is silent and isolating.”

I could relate to that.  In that moment, I was reminded of how painful the “silence” of grief can be.

In 2013, I was the missionary physician who had the privilege of delivering the most beautiful little girl to my neighbors, another missionary family at our same ministry.  31 days later, on a Friday morning at 0600, this beautiful little girl died.

My head was spinning.  I felt so lost, so confused, so terrible.  As I was caring for her 3 older siblings, allowing time for their parents to grieve privately in the immediate wake of their loss, I received a phone call from our ministry’s director.

“Be sure you are back in the clinic by Tuesday.  The patients have been waiting for you.”

I was a missionary with only 2 years of field experience.  I was a physician who had trained in the luxuries of modern medicine.  This was my first patient death.  I was truly treading uncharted territory all while overseeing the only 3 living children of my dear friends.  The message I heard in that morning’s phone call seared painful lies straight to the core of my heart, “Get back on the horse; real missionaries don’t feel pain.”

SILENCE.

My parents then died, 4 months apart of one another, in 2014.  Both were young(ish), no known chronic illnesses, and both were found dead in their living rooms, no warning, no illness, nothing.

Remember the “lesson” I had learned just 4 months earlier when that sweet baby died?  “Get back on the horse.  Real missionaries don’t feel pain.”  I took 2 weeks to fly to the USA, grieve my father’s death, and was then back on the mission field doing allthethings.

SILENCE.

Then, most recently, I walked with a dear friend who lost her husband to cancer after only 5 eventful years of marriage.  They were sold-out Christians, had 3 beautiful daughters, and had already made plans to join our family on the mission field.  They had done everything “right.”

This time, my grief morphed into something that looked different than the previous forms.  This time, I was angry.  This anger, however, took me “to the mats” with God and it was here where I started to heal in the silence of grief.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,

    but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!”

    but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice?

    Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Habakkuk 1:2-3

The adjectives provided in the preceding social media dialogue were all accurate descriptions of how a person may feel in the immediate wake of grief.  What I was experiencing in this new season of grief, however, was an apparent SILENCE from the LORD and it was intolerable.

To you, Lord, I call;

    you are my Rock,

    do not turn a deaf ear to me.

For if you remain silent,

    I will be like those who go down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy

    as I call to you for help,

as I lift up my hands

    toward your Most Holy Place.

Psalm 28:1-2

As I grappled with His apparent indifference to my pain and frustration, I continued to walk with the prophets and then I decided to visit David, a man ‘after God’s own heart’.  It was in my destitute seeking here when I was struck by a miraculous revelation.

I cried out to God for help;

    I cried out to God to hear me.

2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

    at night I stretched out untiring hands,

    and I would not be comforted.

“Will the Lord reject forever?

    Will he never show his favor again?

8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

    Has his promise failed for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?

    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Psalm 77: 1-2, 7-9

If that was all I had read, Psalm 28 and 77, I would have left angry and indigent.  It was almost by accident, however, that I stopped and perused another passage from our fellow brother, King David.  I had been blessed with a coloring Bible and was busy coloring this passage as a balm for my hurting soul.  This psalm had been given to me in January when I had asked the LORD for His direction and promise as I embraced the excitement of the New Year.

God is our refuge and strength,

    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

 The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,

    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease

    to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.”

 The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46

I was lost in my coloring when it hit me for the first time.  Yes, I was hurting, angry, and sullen.  Yes, it seemed the LORD had been silent and unmoved by my desperate appeals for clarity and counsel.  However, who God is never changes and never will.  It was here in His word where I was reminded of the fullness of who our God is.

God can handle our anger.
God will meet us on the mats if we need to wrestle.
God will never leave us or forsake us.

“’Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.’

 The Lord Almighty is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

One Comment Add yours

  1. Angela S. says:

    I am personally not religious in the slightest, although I was raised Catholic,but your feelings really shine in this post, so I couldn’t help but empathize with your pain. It also reminded me of this passage from the bible:

    7 Ask and it will be given to you;
    seek and you will find;
    knock and the door will be opened to you.
    8 For everyone who asks receives;
    he who seeks finds;
    and to him who knocks,
    the door will be opened.

    Luke 11:5-13

    Have a lovely day.

    Like

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