While grief so often means missing someone and feeling sad in their absence, our sadness for the departed can catch us off guard, like a swift kick in the gut. Milestones for the living can highlight this sadness. Graduations, new babies, rites of passage- they can all trigger feelings of injustice and sorrow on behalf of our missing loved ones.
“He should be here for this, and he was robbed of that chance.”
“She shouldn’t be missing this.”
“They always wanted to see this moment and they can’t.”
“She was taken too young.”
“He must have felt so scared.”
Our love for the departed means an inherent empathy, but without their physical presence to console, we feel helpless. There is no comforting the dead. We are left to wrestle with their presumed grief over their own demise.
I don’t think our human limitations allow us to fully understand what happens after death, and varied faith systems (or lack thereof) greatly influence what we comprehend about that. Generally, people fall into two schools of thought:
- Life ends when the body dies and my loved one no longer exists in any form
- Life changes when the body dies and my loved one exists in another form
In both cases, we may find some comfort.
If life ends when the body dies and your loved one no longer exists, then the grief over their absence is yours alone; they do not feel “robbed” because they do not know what they are missing. They lived their human life, experienced their Earthly existence, and hopefully derived some love, connection, and joy while here. They completed that experience when their body expired and can have no longings or wanting for what is now.
If life changes when the body dies and your loved one exists in another form, then by all accounts they are not feeling any sorrow or longing at all. Thousands of stories of near-death experiences and “communication” from departed souls provide all the comfort we need. The afterlife, they say, is bliss. The soul’s next realm is love and light, an experience far beyond our human comprehension but one that supersedes human feelings. There is no bitterness there, and no sense of injustice.
The thoughts that trigger sadness on behalf of your loved one aren’t apt to go away easily, but they needn’t have the emotional impact they have had for you in the past. Grief is for the living; seek all the support you need, and allow the dead to rest in peace.
Imagine Heaven by John Burke
The Light Between Us by Laura Lynne Jackson
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan