2012-09-06 / Worship

Grieving the loss of a good friend is also for the loss of special times

By REV. GLEN KOHLHAGEN

It happens. You wake up in the morning and something feels wrong, your life feels somehow diminished, and your heart feels weighted down. Then it hits you, you have lost a loved one, maybe days or weeks before. The feeling is so powerful that it precedes conscious thought, so powerful that many years later you many remember it.

The undercurrent of something being wrong, of life having sadly changed, lingers long after that day. When a loved family member or friend dies, your life is no longer the same. It is as if the death has wrenched away a piece of your life, and the sudden void disrupts the other pieces that remain.

The parts of your life just do not fit together as they once did. Without your loved one the relationship you shared, you may feel disconnected and alone. What you thought you knew and understood, about life’s goodness, about being happy, about God, has been challenged, maybe even shattered.

How do you feel with this new, unwanted, painful reality? How do you face the emptiness of your loved one’s absence? How do you remove the feeling of wrongness deep in your soul? As you are grieving, know that there are ways to make sense of your life after the death of your loved one.

Did you believe that the goal of life is have the most success, the fewest problems and the least suffering? And that they lived happily ever after was the benchmark against which to measure your existent? If so, you are not alone. Psychiatrist M. Peck chose to begin his best-selling book “The Road less Traveled” with the words “Life is difficult” because he believed so many people fail to accept this truth.

The pain, the loss, the emptiness you feel with the death of your loved one can be a jarring challenge to everything you once believed about life’s purpose and possibilities. Of course, you already realize that people suffered and died, that life was not always fair, that happiness was often fleeting. You knew all that theoretically, in your head. But the death of your loved one brings the reality home. The sadness, the hurt, the wrongness is not out there but in here, in your heart, in your gut, and in your soul.

So, what do you do with this new awareness? Sometimes people who have experienced loss struggle through the pain with develop selective amnesia. Wanting to numb themselves from the heartbreak, they try to drift aback to an earlier, more comfortable time when bad things happened to other people and never ending happiness seemed within their reach. But the wise person experiences life fully and then learns from it. We have to remember that everything that comes into our circle has come to teach us what we need to know.

After the death of a loved one, each of us needs to ask ourselves what a successful life now means. Is it the absence of suffering? Professional success? Wealth, fame, power? Longevity? Was your loved one’s life successful in those terms? Or is there a deeper measure of a life well lived? And what, in the end, truly matter?

If you have a question, or a topic you would like me to address, please feel free to contact me.

Rev. Glen Kohlhagen is the pastor of the Washington Presbyterian Church, and has also served as a hospice chaplain in Milledgeville for over seven years. He can be reached at the church by calling (706) 678-7511. Rev. Kohlhagen is available for individual or group discussions.

(Rev. Glen Kohlhagen is the pastor of the Washington Presbyterian Church and has also served as a hospice chaplain in Milledgeville for more than seven years. He can be reached at the church by calling 706-678-7511. Rev. Kohlhagen is available for individual or group discussions.)

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