WHAT IS BEREAVEMENT?
You are probably wondering why anyone would want to know the answer to such a question. For the same reason you do–to ease the pain. It is a place no one wants to go, and no one enjoys being–a place where hope is lacking and sorrow is abundant.
A bereaved person feels alone, destitute, forlorn–that he is the only person who has ever been in this state of mind. We all know this is not true, but at that moment . . . who cares. How do I know this? I’ve been there. I lost my father, my child and my husband. So, . . . I speak from experience. February 4th will mark the 8th birthday that I have spent without my daughter. Not too long ago, I would have dreaded this day, but now I know everything will be alright! It is not time that has made me feel this way. Nor is it time that has given me a better understanding of her life, it is spiritual growth. Five years prior to her death, my father passed away, and seven years after my daughter’s death, my husband moved on. At the time I was going through these challenges, I did not care what it was called, I just wanted it to end, but it didn’t! I had to make it end. It is not death that enables me to write this article, but life–life that has no beginning or ending–life that reveals God as the Parent of all of us. He is our Father and our Mother, and we are His/Her children. How did I discover this?
That is the focus of this article. It will define bereavement, tackle its human emotions, share related experiences and help you find a way to get out of it. Mary Baker Eddy said it better: “Every trial of our faith in God makes us stronger” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 410).
What is the meaning of bereavement?
The word bereavement comes from a German word that means “to rob.” The person experiencing it, feels that he or she has been robbed of something of great value. This state of thought can be instrumental in how he deals with it and with whom he holds responsible. Two words essential to understanding the bereaved are mourning and grief. There is a marked difference between bereavement and mourning. Mourning is the public display or ritual one holds as a result of the loss, and can be expressed in many ways depending on religious beliefs, lack of religious beliefs, ethnicity or the relationship to the person who has passed on. Grief, on the other hand, defines the personal, emotional state the bereaved experiences because he feels that he has been robbed of the physical presence of someone he holds very dear. No two people will respond to it in the same way, even to the death of the same loved one. Each person brings to the loss his own feelings, emotions and sense of responsibility.
All of the above is a clinical analysis of grief and sorrow, but does knowing this help to ease the pain? I can only speak for myself: No! There has to be a deeper sense, a sense not predicated on physical, mental or emotional analyses, but on spiritual growth and development. Such a sense is found in these words:
“Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ”
(Phillipians 1: 2).
In the human consciousness, there is life and death, but in the divine consciousness, there is only life, for Life is God and God is eternal. Man, being made in the “image and likeness” of God, expresses this eternality. Therefore, like God, he has no beginning or ending. This is a difficult concept to grasp while he still believes that he has been robbed of something. That belief has to be purified, abolished and replaced with the abundant gift of life. Grief has no place in the evidence of this discovery. Keywords that show this evidence are revelation and regeneration. The challenge is to acquire both. Getting there is not measured by time, for time is the yardstick of mortality. Spiritual growth is the measurement of immortality. The one you choose determines your destination.
One of the most difficult facts to grasp by mankind, is that life is, never has been, and never will be in matter, body. When he speaks of “the quality of life,” he is talking about materiality–good physical health, a wealth of material objects such as money, prestige and power, and satisfying employment. These are not the constituents of life, as he finds out when he loses a loved one. So, unless he has developed a strong faith and understanding of God, he is lost. Life is defined by a deep sense of inner peace, courage, humility, strength and spiritual joy. The physical body has not the power to exercise these. Only hope, faith and understanding get us there.
What is the truth regarding bereavement? It is that bereavement is an illusion–an illusion based on the supposition that life is defined by physical existence. Once one grasps the concept that this is untrue, it sets him on the road of discovering the true meaning of life. Once he gets there, he sees no reason to grieve. Acquiring the knowledge that his loved one did not actually die, is the challenge! How do you get there?
There are several factors that get you there. One is total submission to God. You give up what you want, and seek to discover what He wants. You stop arguing, blaming, regretting and saying “What if?” Hind-sight is always 20/20, so you reach for divine vision–a vision far beyond the human eye–a vision of spiritual discernment. Each moment, each cry, each pain, must be dealt with. You run away from nothing! Ask God the tough questions and expect to receive the gentle answers. Some you may understand immediately, others may take a while. Let the tears flow, and the voice of anguish cry out! The thing that hurts the most, is the one you must deal with first. Piling hurt on top of hurt, gets you nowhere. Your heart feels like someone is cutting it away piece-by-piece, but you must keep going. Let each day be as normal as you can possibly make it. You will get there!
Let your day be filled with prayer and readings that give hope, faith and consolation. Recognize that God or whatever you call Him, loves you, and would never do anything to cause the suffering that you are going through. At first this may seem strange, especially if you feel God is the blame, but keep doing it. Slowly, you will feel the effect it is having on your inner self. You will get there. No one knows the time or the day. That is what faith is all about. All I know, is that day will come.
All progress is based on divine Love, which impels progress. What does that mean? After my daughter passed away, I asked God why He had forsaken me–why He had forsaken a child who had served Him so long and trustworthy? I said, “Not only did I do this, so did my daughter?” Well, He gave me an answer that I did not want to hear. It said, “Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.” I didn’t want to hear that, because you see, I did not think I needed chastening! What was He talking about? What did that have to do with giving me the resources to heal my daughter? I learned after two years of struggling that what I was asking God to do, was keep breath in a human body. And that was impossible . . . for God, being Soul, does not see His children as human beings, but spiritual beings. I was trying to get God where I was, instead of getting myself where He was. There is a marked difference. In the realm of Spirit, there is no flesh, blood and bones. There is only spiritual consciousness, and what God was telling me, was that my human consciousness needed to be purified, and only then I would understand my daughter still lived. As I grew in my spiritual understanding of Life, my consciousness moved from physicality to spirituality. This must take place before grief is healed and bereavement overcome. There is no other way. No one knows when this will happen, but when it does happen, you will know it.
Human will is a “funny” thing. When we have it, we don’t know it, but when we move beyond it, we know we had it. I wanted my daughter to continue living in that physical body and thought God wanted it too. He didn’t. He didn’t because He sees no physical bodies. God is Spirit, and His children are given only spiritual bodies. The crux of all bereavement and grief, is the lack of this knowledge and understanding.
Spirit, as the only substance of Being, creates and preserves His children with peace, harmony and love. When these fill one’s heart and soul, there is no room for sorrow, suffering and inner turmoil. True happiness does not come from seeing a human body, but seeing a pure and simple heart. It does not come from touching a physical structure, but touching a spiritual soul. This atmoshpere of Soul does not come easy, for mankind is trained to respond to the human more than the divine. Reality to him, is sensual perception, not divine revelation. He learns these lessons as he struggles with death. You cannot travel the road of death and expect your destination to be life. You must “hold to the one” and give up the other, or you will find that you have neither.
When I set about writing this article, I asked God to help me write it in the simplest of terms, so all of us could understand. He did not disappoint me. I hope I have not disappointed you. Whereever you are in your struggle with grief, know that the same faith He gave Abraham to find the land He had chosen for him, he will guide you to the place He has chosen for you. For you see, it was not material land that Abraham discovered, it was spiritual enlightenment. That same God has given you the capacity to hear “his loving kindness” in the sunlight of truth and be delivered from the enemies of mortality. When you reach your destination, you will say without a doubt . . . “what is bereavement?”
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