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Of Loss, and Faith, and Silence

June 15, 2012

“I’m not me anymore,” he whispers, “I’m not even interested in girls.”

I burst out laughing. It’s cathartic. I needed to laugh in this moment. I needed him to make me laugh, to show that there is still some semblance of the person he is behind all of that grief. Did he intend for it to be a good joke? I look up at him, and see the terror in his eyes. His reality sinks into mine. It’s not a joke. No interest in girls is a big deal. When you’re a teenager, not being interested in girls is a really big deal.

“You’re still you,” I say. I cock my head to the side and let a small smile push up against my cheeks. “And there will always be plenty of girls when you’re ready for them.”

The sun shines bright through my windows. The rain finally stopped, but his eyes are still wet from crying. He brushes away tears with the tissue he’s knotted in his hand. He looks both relieved and embarrassed to be crying in front of me. He looks both relieved and embarrassed to be talking about all this.

“But what if I’m not still me?” I watch as the tears drip in singular succession to the floor. “What if the me I know is gone? What if I won’t be myself again?” I can hear the fear. I can feel the trepidation. I can sense his panic as it rises up in his throat. Yes, grief changes us, I think to myself. We are never the same after loss. We are never the same after years of agonizingly waiting for loss.

“Do you still pray?” I ask him.

“I still pray,” he replies.

“Then you’re still you.” I pause. “God has this great way of holding onto us and not letting us go. It’s impossible for him to let you go.”

“Impossible?” he questions. He stares me down, daring me to take my words back. He doubts me. I doubt me. It’s a moment when I need to be stronger than I look. Is it impossible? I wonder to myself. Is it impossible for him to come out of this a wholly different person? Will he be himself? Will God always cling to his hand?

I steel up my nerves. I steel up my best adult assurances. I steel up enough faith, and hope, to look him in the eye and speak the only truth I have ever come to know.

“That’s the miracle of faith,” I say, “we’ll never know unless we trust it.”

He softly nods his head. He looks at the ground and I can see the shattered pieces of his spirit falling away around him. He knows I believe my own words, and he knows he doesn’t. He knows his inner hell has stripped away all of his faith, all of his trust, and quite frankly, I don’t blame him. Quite frankly, I don’t blame him if he didn’t pray anymore.

He puts his head against his hand and takes a deep breath in.

I search for words but they don’t come.

He sniffs and rubs the tissue against his red nose.

I ask God to hold onto my young friend.

And the silence fills our space again.

Perhaps I see God’s hand come and rest across his shoulder.

Perhaps I don’t.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2012 11:02 pm

    You might not be able to see it, but I can. God’s hand came and rested across his shoulder when you listened to him with your whole heart. Praying with you that there will be other hands and listening ears for this young man as he walks the road ahead. My older two grandsons are struggling with faith issues as they emerge into manhood, in the wake of their dad’s death almost 4 years ago – after nearly 4 years of often horrific struggle. It’s so hard to think about prayer, faith & God the same way after a major loss like this one.

    BUT he is asking the right questions and he’s asking them relatively early in the process – that’s a good sign. Whatever you can do to encourage him to keep talking and to keep crying, actually, is really important. My kids circled the wagons and didn’t show much emotion to anyone outside their close-knit quartet of mom and 3 boys – and then mom remarried last summer. They seem to have let him in a bit, for which I am grateful.

    Your sweet friend will not be the same – but he will NOT lose himself. Who he will be will indeed be shaped differently because of this journey – but his own personal essence? Nope – he is not lost. And that’s an important and, I think, good thing to be worried about, actually. It shows a fairly deep level of self-reflection to ask the question of himself and a goodly amount of courage to ask it of you. Thanks so much for this thoughtful and honest post.

  2. July 12, 2013 1:14 pm

    I happened across your blog and this post and in these last months, I’ve done alot of thinking about grief and becoming and moving on. My best friend lost her dad 3 months ago, and it’s been a difficult road to travel when I don’t know the first thing about what it means to lose or grieve. When she asks the hard questions, and tells me things like all of this has changed me or where is God in this or what the heck does it even mean to grieve, and truly I don’t know. It’s not easy to walk beside someone swimming in a world of grief. Thanks for your writing. Here’s some of my own:

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