An envious sliver broke… {On grief}


There’s a little booklet that has been lying around my bookshelf since a shopping therapy session at the local Christian bookstore. Its title is Amazing Peace, and its cover looks like a painting from the early German romantics. I bought it during a time of trials, but only got around to open it now. It starts with a beautiful anecdote about a painting contest. The topic was peace, and predictably most contestants painted the kind of pictorial representations of the pastoral idyll of the poets. If you’ve ever spent any time in the English countryside on a sunny day you know what it can be like, and likely the word you’ll use to describe it is peaceful.
Yet the winner was an entirely different thing.

The winning artist used bold, dark strokes to portray a violent storm with a fierce wind, driving rain, and jagged lightning. Lines converged on a cleft in an enormous rock where – protected from the elements and completely undisturbed – perched a bright, irrepressible bird.

And against all odds, four days into this week of grieving, I start to feel like the bird.
The first day wasn’t easy. I cried on the phone when the news was given to me. The first reaction was disbelief, soon followed by the realisation than it was real and it was final. Grief and guilt ensued. I’ve been meaning to call last week, when it occurred to me I hadn’t had a real catch up with him in a long time. That’s the problem with friendships that are so strong you know they don’t need constant attention: sometimes you let life get in the way a bit too long. You think there is always tomorrow, but as a friend said to me, tomorrow sometimes leaves some of us behind. He was one of the most special people that have ever walked the earth, and I can’t even begin to contemplate the hole that he left in the life of his family and girlfriend. I’ve spent the first day half trying to distract myself with a library run and wandering around the V&A {the proximity between my favourite museum and the Oratory can be extremely comforting}, and half trying to wrestle with this with God. I have spent approximately 4 hours in a church, from vespers at the Oratory to a charismatic evening service at an Anglican church with a friend. Two different environment, one way out of my comfort zone {in fact, my friend seemed to be amused by telling everyone who would listen what a “traditional Roman Catholic” I am}, but at the end of the day losing someone you care about is beyond anyone’s comfort zone in the first place.

One of the biggest objections I hear from non-believers is always something around the injustice of bad things happening, and yet that thought has never crossed my mind. Of course I’d rather this had never happened, but I’m not angry with God. As the wife of a dear friend said of their daughter being diagnosed with a fatal disease in the womb, I like to think God thinks of him as too precious for this world.
I’ve spent the second day reading a lot about grief. Mothers who lost their child or knew they will one day, daughters who lost their mothers, wives who lost their husbands. It’s a blessing that so many people are willing to be vulnerable and share their pain on their blogs. There I was, rationally knowing that I should have been much sadder, and angrier, and doubtful, yet feeling strangely at peace. It’s not like I don’t start to randomly cry, or I can talk about it without being a wreck {although I’m told I look really beautiful and composed when I cry}. It’s more like the feeling of crying in your mother’s lap as a toddler, your mother grieving with you. And it’s more like the quiet confidence that God is taking care of him as much as all of you left behind, even if it doesn’t make much sense to us. We wish people who pass away to “rest in peace”, but I’ve never truly stopped to think about what that looks like.

Later in Foster’s book he recollects a moment in his life when he was grieving with the family of a Muslim convert who lost her husband, and a young Muslim approached him to say he wanted to study the Bible because “You Christian have a beautiful way of turning sorrow into joy”. I’m not quite at the joy stage yet, and it’s likely I won’t be for quite some time, but we know we will get there eventually and so we soldier on. If we will go to heaven, tomorrow will not leave some of us behind after all.


The book mentioned in this post is: George Foster, “Amazing Peace. Hope and Encouragement for the Storms of Life”.

Title is a quote from William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 7, v 170.

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  1. Alessia, this is written in such an amazing and compelling way. It captures the rawness of grief but in a beautiful way. I think in loss and in grief we find ourselves many times looking back, thinking of what we could have done differently or have done more of and that’s where we get stuck…if only I could hug him or hold him once more…I have found that speaking to myself in a reverse way in times of grief has helped me heal…instead of if only, I change it to I got to hold him that time, I got to see his smile this many times…though I still have a yearning for more because I do miss that person it eases me that I did get to have those moments at all. It is hard to see it in the moments of grief but time does heal all things and the memories we miss will become strength for us in our future days.

  2. Oh, friend, I am so so sorry. I can’t imagine unexpectedly losing a close friend.

    And yes, I know what you mean about those friendships where time passes without it being a problem. I’ve been feeling convicted lately that I need to reach out at least once a week in a small way and once a month in a big way to my best friends. I’ve been so physically ill and emotionally depressed that my friends have done the heavy lifting in our relationships lately, but I’m starting to feel like I can (and should) be a good friend again.

    Lots of love and prayers to you. <3

    1. <3 <3 <3 same to you. I'm sure your friends were happy to be there for you when you needed it. My only new year resolution was to be in touch with people i had lost touch with as a kind of doing something positive with this whole tragedy.

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