Grief: The Presence of Absence

“No one told me grief felt so like fear.”

This is the first line of C.S Lewis’ A Grief Observed. Originally written under a pen name, it was his means of dealing with the madness of grief after his wife’s death.

For years I’ve struggled with understanding the how’s and why’s of grief, death, and the hundreds of things that cause it. It’s not just the knowledge that someone is eternally or even temporarily parted from me; it is the watching and tearing of a bond that wasn’t as strong as I thought. It comes with the words, “brain tumor,” “late stage cancer,” and even “never woke up.”

Let me get one thing strait. I am not scared of death. I am confident in both my end on earth and my beginning in heaven. Fast or slow, sudden or expected, Christ has a plan for me in death as surely as he did in  saving me.

That’s not what I’m talking about. Others’ deaths lacerate my soul leaving gaping wounds I can’t stitch together. I am not found only in the body I currently steward, but also in the lives I touch. I love giving of myself, leaving pieces of my heart in that love’s wake. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors, close friends, and family have large pieces of me. When they die, that piece is taken, ripped from a weak earthly link, and can only be found when I follow them. I think that part of our treasure in heaven will be reuniting with those pieces and the people that own them. No more grief. No more loss.

Grief: The Presence of AbsenceYou can see it. When people lose loved ones, it is worse than losing a limb. The elderly die of old age partly because so much of them is gone. They fade. The times have changed and those that made the time worthwhile have gone.

Lewis also wrote that, “the pain now is part of the happiness then.” Pain, grief, is a growing monument for the love we shared. If we did not love so much, we would not feel so much.

It never goes away completely; thats the nature of loss. You learn to live without loved ones, but it is not the same as being immune to it. I grieve those who have died and are dying. My heart rends itself again and again as I go to funeral after hospital room after bedside. I have seen death creep in, turn a body white, and let it rot.

There is a new presence when someone is gone, absence. Nature abhors a vacuum. It is always there mocking you with what will never be. A childhood friend will never finish a game of war, my grandmother will never know my little sister, and my grandfather will never see my wedding.

There are always more  – gone.

Family, friends, girls from Bible studies, teachers – some never to see again.

I am left wondering if I could have changed something, if I could have made something better.

That absence catches me suddenly – when I play my grandfather’s favorite song, when I realize I will never get to tell her the Gospel, when I’m asked what I miss the most about my childhood.

At first the pain knocks the wind out of me, then come tears, sometimes years later. My grief is my own; I don’t know how to share it. Last Sunday I cried for my grandfather for the first time, really cried. He died seven years ago.

As more and more of my soul is pulled from me, I feel the urge to follow. I am fading. Each storm, trial, trouble, and grief feeds the my own ache for heaven. Grief rouses my thirst for the eternal.

“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”



3 thoughts on “Grief: The Presence of Absence

  1. Katie, you hot this one out of the ballpark. I am going to contemplate, “There is a new presence when someone is gone, absence. Nature abhors a vacuum. It is always there mocking you with what will never be.” This is truth!

  2. I have not been able to put it words, the grief, pain, sorrow, and emptiness that has filled my heart of the many tragic and unexpected losses that both my family and myself have lost over the past year. I have felt somewhat selfish to mourn and fell the pain that has filled my heart. I had thought that with time that it would heal and become easier, however it has not. With time has only come the finality of it all. I miss them terribly. The absence of there presence and dealing with the grief has been difficult to explain and share. This made me realize, that I am not alone in feeling this way. Everything I have felt this has validated for me, to the writer, I thank you for giving me that first step to heel…for me that is to allow myself to grieve for the absence of their presence.

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