Conversations in Grief Blog: Hope
I am reluctant to bring up hope or gratefulness to people who are grieving. I become even more uneasy when I hear stories during the pandemic that are supposed to make us feel better about the darkness which surrounds us.
Then I heard this story. Two people who had survived the Holocaust met in a displaced persons camp and became friends but lost touch…until they found each other last month on a virtual synagogue service marking Yom Kippur. One friend heard the other’s name announced, convinced her son to do some digging, and the two friends reunited after 70 years, discovering they only lived 60 miles apart. All because of a Zoom worship service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that’s a story of hope that I can get behind.
I’ve been walking with a woman whose husband died over a year ago. In a recent conversation, she reported on new projects she was taking on. She anticipated the possibility, due to the pandemic, of being alone for Thanksgiving, which she felt she could face. She reflected on encounters and conversations with other people where she was present and engaged. I pointed out to her all of the ways I heard that she was healing. Together we decided that her grief no longer owned her. While she carries her grief with her, she is no longer defined by her grief.
Another bereaved wife, also with a year of grieving under her belt, explained that she simply doesn’t feel the same way she felt a year ago, “I’ve gotten more practice at living without him.”
Let me be clear. I wish for people who are bereaved to rediscover hope. But I don’t get to tell them to be thankful or to be hopeful. Even more importantly, this is not a hope based on the death of their loved one. This hope is based on the bereaved person’s response to the death.
Hope is having the energy for a project. Hope is having a conversation where you are present and joyful with another. Hope may be as simple as knowing that you won’t always feel the way you feel right now.
Part of Rainbow’s holiday grief program was lighting four candles, one for grief, one for courage, one for memories, and one for love. As the love candle was lit, the following words were spoken, “This light is the light of love. We cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us.” Hope is the acceptance that you will always carry your grief with you and the recognition that your grief is a symbol that your loved one lived and that you continue to love your person. Continuing to love is hope, too. And that truly is a light in the darkness.