When we speak of grief it’s normally in the context of losing someone we love, but I’ve come to understand that the waves of grief roll over so many different areas of life. We just don’t realize it applies beyond loss, nor do we think it should.
A dear friend has reminded me of this recently. She and her husband tried unsuccessfully to have children. They spent years in doctors’ offices exhausting all medical options to become pregnant. They experienced the roller coaster rides of fertilization treatments. When this failed they were told of another route to consider, adoption from within the foster care system.
They filled out all the necessary paperwork, had the rooms in their house measured, and waited for children to arrive on their doorstep. Four children, siblings with little belongings but a boatload of emotional baggage, finally did. They are now nine years into the saga of foster to adoption, which is a tale unto itself. But she told me that even to this day, she grieves.
These children should have had parents who loved them, treasured them, looked into their sweet faces knowing they would do all they could to protect… Their biological parents should have been the ones to care for them most. They should never have betrayed these children. Yet, they hurt them to the degree that the challenges within may never be entirely overcome.
My friend grieves not having the honor of birthing these children, cradling them after their first breath, nurturing them, challenging them, and protecting them.
It’s not really today that the heartbreak is for—it’s for what should have been.
I have walked through the heartbreak of divorce with ones I love. Their loss palpable, the loss of that marriage that was filled with promise, with a dream, with a hope. They grieve the loss of that promise that died when the marriage dissolved.
The loss of health when you have a job you love, family to care for, but not the strength to do either. The prodigal that leaves the life you did your best to prepare them for, the life you dreamed for them of hope and a future. Instead, they embrace one of destruction.
We must allow ourselves to grieve. We must allow ourselves time to hurt for what should have been. We must not ignore it. We cannot diminish it.
It is only when we allow ourselves to grieve that we find our way into the reality that is. There is nothing wrong with knowing that this world is not as it should have been. We are not alone. God grieves with us. This world is not as He intended. The hurt, disappointment, and pain were not of His choosing.
But there is hope found when we can embrace what we have, not holding onto what we don’t. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, ESV). It is only then that we can build the life we are in, purposefully, prayerfully, gaining strength from the God of grace, with hope for what can be.
You may not find it today, or tomorrow. These may be the days you need to grieve. There will be days ahead when you’ll grieve again, even for the same loss. But step by step a life that should have been but wasn’t can turn into the life yet to come, the life that will be.