The passing of a loved one: Healing grief
A Christian Science perspective: Even in the bleakest moments, the Christ comes to comfort.
Last fall was the first time I’d been in Maine during the month of November. As the days grew shorter and the leaves fell from the trees, gray branches seemed to stretch out endlessly against gray days. It had been a difficult fall. My stepdaughter had passed on very suddenly, and what made me especially sad was that we had just begun to get really close.
I had prayed earnestly with the 23rd Psalm, drawing great comfort from feeling God’s presence right with me. So many immediate needs were met with such perfect precision that I knew them to be proofs of God’s care.
But after a couple of months, I realized I was still grieving the lost opportunities for all that my stepdaughter and I could have shared. More prayer was still needed, and I persisted in humbly turning to God for answers.
This time my inspiration came in the form of a metaphor. One day, as I was driving along, I noticed some beautiful bright red berries shimmering through the gray branches along the roadside. I later asked a friend about them and she told me, “Those are called winterberry, and they come out about this time of year.”
Something about the radiant beauty of these berries appearing at this bleak and barren time of year warmed my heart. It reminded me of a spiritual truth that I had leaned on many occasions before – that divine light is always breaking through to us, even when the way seems very dark. We just have to look for it – open our heart – and follow it.
This light is the Christ, God’s ceaseless message of comfort and love for all of us. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy – who discovered Christian Science – writes, “Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332). We can certainly feel divinely derived love in the comforting care of family and friends. But even more profoundly, we can feel Christ quietly dawning in thought as an increasing awareness that we are always in God, in Life, in Love. The Bible says, “In him, we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Even if, at first, this light seems minuscule in comparison to the darkness, we can prayerfully watch for the beams of Love’s ever-presence, lifting us out of the night of doubt, grief, and fear.
That’s what happened for me. Just the reminder from the winterberries to look for the light of the Christ shining in my thought gave me a compass to follow and a great sense of peace. In fact, I quickly stopped focusing on the darkness as I turned instead to that Christ light, leading me to see more and more of what it means that God is Life itself, and that as God’s spiritual creation (see Genesis 1:26, 27), we are the expression of infinite Life. We are the eternal ideas that express God’s infinite individuality, forever dearly loved by Him.
A verse in a favorite hymn from the “Christian Science Hymnal” reads:
O daughter of Zion, awake from thy sadness;
Awake, for thy foes shall oppress thee no more;
And bright o’er thy hills dawns the daystar of gladness;
Arise, for the night of thy sorrow is o’er. (No. 200)
I felt so much of God’s mothering love for both my stepdaughter and me from this hymn. It was reassuring to feel that as daughters of Zion our true relation to each other was in God, not in time or space.
Then one day this past spring, I realized that my healing of grief was complete. I had learned more about the fact that God is infinite and eternal Life, and that each of us is the creation, or expression, of that Life, and so must also be eternal. I was so uplifted by this idea that instead of being sad, I was delighted when I moved a pair of her old winter boots and out fell some pretzels. This had been her favorite snack, and I found myself laughing at this unexpected reminder of her! Today, even after the anniversary of her passing, I continue to feel love for her, not sadness.
If we are feeling overwhelmed by grief, we can take heart! The ever-present light of the Christ is right now reaching out to all of us. We can follow this light of inspiration, which will guide us through the dark night and into the light of day.