Grief: A Solitary Journey

By Jim Tune

It was a gray, cold, miserable February day when my father died rather suddenly after a few days of hospitalization for respiratory problems. This month marks five years since his death on February 5, 2011. I miss him and still grieve his loss. It’s a different kind of grief now—not so raw or hard-edged. I miss him on holidays when we celebrated family traditions and rituals. And the February anniversary can still be difficult.

02_Tune_JNIt’s possible that the short, dark days of our Canadian winter contribute to my sense of melancholy. Nonetheless, arriving at the five-year mark has given me pause to reflect and make some observations about grief.

I think grief never really ends. We journey through it and perhaps never really finish. As Bono sang, “There’s no end to grief” and “there is no end to love” (in U2’s “California (There Is No End to Love)”).

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to grieve. For me, the way to grieve is whatever way I am grieving at that moment. There is no guidebook. My loss, and my processing of that loss, is as unique as the relationship I had with my dad. You cannot steer grief. You can only experience it. It is a journey

Grief and loss changed me, made me more fully human. For 20 years as a pastor, I conducted myself as a professional problem-solver, a fixer, someone to be counted on. And that’s the persona I assumed in the days between my father’s death and his funeral. I made the final arrangements, tried to be a pillar for my mother, conducted the service, and preached the funeral sermon. I actually felt, well, exhilarated. I was in task mode, doing what I do for people experiencing sorrow and loss, barely aware I soon would be experiencing those same emotions.

Since my father’s death, I’ve felt decidedly human. I’ve been brought, both figuratively and literally, to my knees. Suddenly I couldn’t focus or control my emotions. I was actually no different from the people I’d stood with through their pain. I was like everybody else. Saying goodbye to Dad was like saying hello to my humanity.

I think grief is always, ultimately, a solitary journey. I was fortunate enough to have people walk alongside me for stretches, even carry me at times, but no one can really travel all the way with a person through his or her grief.

Tears are a tribute to the ones we love. And grief endures because love endures.

There is comfort in knowing my father is with the Lord. Although I’ve lost something irreplaceable, I haven’t lost it all.

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5 Comments

  1. Max R. Hickerson
    January 25, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Thank you for your continuing writing in the Christian Standard !!! After reading ” A Different Tune ” in the February issue, it was a superb addition to the article in the Jan. 6 , 2016 edition of the Wall Street Journal that was titled, ” No, you don’t need Closure ” by Dr. Stephen Forman, a cancer physician in Duarte, CA….. Thanks again !!

    Max R. Hickerson
    Houston, TX

  2. Barbara Caraway
    February 5, 2016 at 8:46 am

    This morning i happen to read this article,which i must say was very rewarding. May will be 10 years since my son was killed.
    On January 30 he would have been 42 years old. My granddaughter texted me reminding me of her dad’s birthday. I never forget. I appreciate the words of this article,” Tears are a tribute to the ones we love. And grief endures because love endures”. My sister passed away on December 29,2015. I think of her often,but i find comfort knowing she is no longer suffering.I like those words, “We journey through grief and perhaps never really finish.” Thank you for including this heart touching article in the February issue of Christian Standard.

    Barbara Caraway
    Thank you.

  3. Sandra Davis
    February 5, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Yes, I understand that grief, Jim, after losing my Dad in 1992 and my Mom this past August, 2018. It’s such an unusual feeling – where is home? For so many years, we said we were “going home” but when there is no longer a Dad or Mom there, what is home? Near the end, my Mom kept saying she wanted to go home. (She was 99 years and 4 months). Sometimes we would ask her where home was, wondering whether she meant her birthplace home, her married life home, her daughter’s home where she spent her later years, but she always answered “I want to go where my heart is” and we always knew she meant where her husband and God were. We all take the journey through life, through grief, and often through pain and much sorrow, but in the end, what a JOY it will be when we are truly HOME, where pain and suffering no longer exists. Thanks for sharing your journey, and for being there for so many others in their pain.

  4. Rick Bradford
    February 10, 2019 at 4:56 am

    Yes, grief is real, the sense of loss and the actual depth of the loss comes from the sense of love lived, and the depth of that love live.

    I have always said that I will not know how I will grieve or the depth of the grief I will feel until the day, I face it.
    Yet facing it is not a “one time” thing. It comes at us during those time where we met love even deeper and no longer can have that physical contact anymore. It is not replaceable, even though we might think we can, but it was unique and will stay that way.

    Grief as Jim mentions is something that stays with us, yet I believe that it’s power can be turned to joy eventually as we face the attributes that were shared with us from the one that has passed and we can live them out in our lives and in the lives of other behind us.
    Grief is not wrong!
    Grief is not weak!
    Grief is not soft!
    It is a part of life lived well, with much love shared well, and love remembered well.

    I find that other cultures can look at the loss of a loved one and actually celebrate a life lived well. They call the funeral, “a celebration of life” and dance together in that life lived.

    May we learn to dance with the memory of a life lived well.

    Jim I knew your dad, and he was special to all of us, he “loved” many of us that were not so lovable, but he certainly shared the Love of his Saviour to all of us.

    He was a “rock”

  5. Larry D. Collins
    February 10, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Lost my 35 yr old middle daughter in March of 2015….nothing has come close to the pain of that loss for me or for my family. God brought me and my family through that week; I remember clutching my Bible at night because the anguish was so bad, I thought my heart would explode sometimes…death of a loved one is a lasting memory because of how they touched our lives….my hope is that the death and resurrection of Christ continues to heal my pain, my loss, and increase my Joy until my last breath. I believe He can do that. Psalm 126:3.

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