Is it Possible to Have Unwavering Faith When Faced With Grief and Loss?
I'm not a religious person. I suppose I would say I'm a spiritual person - I have my own set of fairly eclectic beliefs. It took me a long time to get to this place, and through all the ups and downs in my life, I have always believed in something, even though that something has changed over the years. Even though I've had trials in my life, I look at all the wonderful things in my life and the beauty around me and find myself thinking 'how can I not believe in a higher power?'
I believe in fate and destiny and karma and a myriad of other things, and for the most part, I believe that everything happens for a reason. If we can't see or understand the reason, maybe we're not supposed to, or maybe it will become clear later in life through an event either related or unrelated.
Death is the one area that I have trouble with. We all die, that's a fact of life - one of the only concrete facts of life - but how it happens, when it happens, and why it happens is what sometimes troubles me.
Dealing with grief and loss
My dad died at the age of 49 after a very long, painful illness. For two years, he was in and out of hospitals, had chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and suffered quite a bit. When he died, I was only ten, and it turned my whole family upside down. My mum had been married previously to an awful man, and when she finally met my dad, the love of her life, he was ripped away from her far too soon. She was left for the second time in her life to raise a child on her own, while still having to work full-time, deal with family obligations, sell our home, and deal with all the things that came with raising a grieving child.
Nearly seventeen years later, I have accepted my father's death. What choice do I have? What choice do we have but to move on after losing a loved one? Many people lose themselves in grief and are blinded by it, and their life ends when the life of their loved one ends. They can't accept it, can't handle it, can't move on, and live an empty half-life that isn't really living at all.
I don't know the reason my dad died, I've accepted that it's not for me to know or understand, and although it hurts and at times makes me unbearably sad and even angry that I'll never see him again, or hear his voice or laugh, or get to ask him the thousands of questions I didn't think to ask him at the tender age of ten, it is what it is and I can't change it. His 49 years of life were more than some others get and those 49 years, although riddled with tragedies of his own, were mostly happy. He died having loved an amazing woman and having a child that he longed and wished for. He was successful and well-liked and loved by many. His death brought my mum and me closer - I can't help but think that as a daddy's girl, my mum and I never would have had a truly close relationship, and now we're best friends and have been since I was a teenager. She's the one person who has never let me down and who I can count on no matter what.
Events that shake your faith
I've had quite a few losses since my father's death. Relatives, family friends, even a couple of classmates. It's the deaths of those who haven't really had a chance to live that grieve me the most - a life lost that had barely even begun. And that's where the question of faith comes in. Sometimes I have to question how these things can happen - how can an innocent child contract a fatal disease? How can young kids out for a good time be killed in an accident? How can things like that happen? And why?
If you hear these stories and you're lucky enough that they haven't really affected your life or touched you in a life-altering way, it may be hard to understand how it can shake a person's faith. I would hear these stories on the news or from friends and my heart would ache but when it hits a bit closer to home, the heartache is even greater. Last week, we got news that a friend of my 17-year-old cousin's had been killed in an accident. Absolutely tragic, but upon hearing the details, I felt sick and still do. This 16-year-old girl had been walking home, down a country road, like she had likely done many times before, and was hit by a car and thrown into a ditch. My cousin and his friend came upon the accident and pulled the girl's body from the ditch and performed CPR on her until the paramedics came. She was alive when the ambulance left, but she died later.
When we first heard the story, we didn't know if the girl was already dead when she was pulled from the ditch. I remember thinking that as awful as it would have been for my cousin, I hoped she had died on impact and not suffered or been afraid. When I heard that she had been alive and that my cousin and his friend had performed CPR on her, I swear my heart stopped beating for a minute. So many things ran through my head - this poor 16-year-old girl with her whole life ahead of her, what must she have been thinking? How must her parents feel, knowing their daughter will never live the life they had planned and hoped and dreamed for her? How must my cousin and his friend feel, having pulled her from that ditch and tried to save her life?
How can things like that happen? If there's a higher power out there, how can they let things like that happen? And why?
Things and people that reaffirm your faith
And then I look at the faces of my two little nephews, the most beautiful children in the world, who I love as if they were my own, and I think how can a higher power not exist? I spend time with my incredible family who mean the world to me, who I love more than anything else, and I wonder again how can a higher power not exist? I go for a walk and look up at the blue sky and feel the sunshine wash over me and hear the wind whispering and the birds chirping and children laughing and see people in love and it feels like everything is right in the world, even though you know there are people suffering and dying all over the world, and even though I've had my fair share of suffering.
Is it possible for anyone to have unwavering, unshakable faith? Is it possible to look at all the tragedy and suffering in the world, but to look at your own blessings and have complete and utter faith that there is a higher power and that everything happens for a reason? I don't know if I'll ever have an answer for that, or if my faith will ever waver to the breaking point, or if something will happen in my life that will never make me question my faith again.
But I guess that's life. Even though it can be so easy to get caught up in the negativity and the pain and the suffering, I think when we're lucky enough to have blessings in our life and to have the blessing of life, we should appreciate it that much more. We should live for those who didn't have a chance to, those whose lives were cut short. Live because they can't, for whatever reason - to honour them and give thanks, whether it's to a higher power or not.
Faith, loss and grief
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