Life is filled with losses and anytime there is loss there is grief. Losses can include the loss of relationships, the loss of things, the loss of opportunities, the loss of innocence; the list can go on and on. Whatever the loss, grief can (and most likely will) be found. I have recently been reminded of this in powerful way.
Six years ago an orange and white kitten strolled by our house and stopped for a visit. He didn't stay long, but in the days that followed he returned, and returned, and returned. You guessed it; he soon became our cat. My wife named our new friend Crybaby because he meowed so much. But as time went on he really became my cat and I realized that I should have named him Cuddles because he became the most affectionate cat I have ever seen. Crybaby and I became buddies. When I watched TV or tried to read my Bible, he was in my lap. He would come into the bath room in the morning to watch me shave. When I went to sleep he wanted to rest on my tummy. He was my constant companion and very dear friend.
Then one night, while sitting on the couch, I looked over and saw him lying beside a chair. He wasn't moving. Though I called him he didn't come. When I went to find out why I discovered he was dead! What an incredible shock. I took him immediately to the Vet and it was determined that he died of cardiomyopathy - in short, heart failure. I was crushed.
Now obviously the loss of a cat is not the same thing as the loss of human being. But for several days my mind didn't really resonate with that truth. My heart was broken. I cried on and off for several days. It took over a week before I begin to feel "not sick" and even though he's been gone for weeks I still miss him deeply. How can we "heal" from the loss of such a good friend?
I know no magic formula for overcoming grief but I have found several things to be helpful: First, I've tried to be honest with God. In my times of prayer I've told God how much I miss Crybaby and how hurt and confused I've been following his sudden loss. Second, I've had many visits with my wife and close friends. They have listened and with kind words have encouraged and comforted me. Third, to the best of my ability as the days have moved on I've tried to "entrust" my friend to God's care and give thanks for the time we've shared together. I really don't know what happens to animals after they die. I do know that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge and care of our loving Heavenly Father. I believe I can place Crybaby into God's hands.
Sometimes I wish that life was easier. Sometimes I wish that we didn't experience heart ache or pain. But in this life trials, troubles, and heart ache are real. God may not keep us from life hurt, but He is with us in it; and by His grace, He can see us through.
Sometimes the unthinkable happens. We hear sirens; see fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars all heading towards the local school. Tragedy has surely struck! This was the scene witnessed by many in the town of Stillwater Oklahoma last week as a young women walked into one of the elementary schools carrying a backpack, and exclaimed, "I'm here to take all the children to heaven." Obviously, the school went into crisis mode! Office staff were able to quick subdue the intruder; still the extent of what they were dealing with was unknown. Authorities were called and an evacuation of the school was begun. Children were escorted out of the building to a "safe place" while police and fire teams secured the building. Fortunately no explosives were found. The event ended up not to be an act of terrorism but rather the acting out of mentally unstable woman. Still, the children had witnessed an alarming scene. Though the teachers did their best at maintaining order and calm, many of the children knew that something was terribly wrong. "What do we tell the children?", one mother asked. My recommendation is to comfort them with the truth.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.