Love is a many splendoured thing, the old song tells us.
I was pondering the nature of love recently, the way humans experience it, and how we react when we lose someone we have dearly loved. Because the flip side of the joy of love is the pain when we lose the object of our love.
In my case, I had to say goodbye to a dearly loved furry member of our family, our 15-year-old cat Aimee Miaowzart (say it aloud to get the joke).
She had been part of our family since she was 14 weeks old, and had inveigled her feline way into our hearts. If we asked her how she was, she would always reply, usually with a purry miaow. Her greatest joy in life was to curl up on my lap, closely followed by being allowed to lick the last little bit of ice-cream on a stick—sheer bliss for this cat with a sweet tooth.
All of you who have loved a pet will know how hard it is to say goodbye, but if we have loved them then we always put them first, ahead of our own natural desire to hang onto them.
The great English theologian and writer of the famous Narnia series, C.S. Lewis, wrote a powerful book about his own experience of grief called A Grief Observed, written in response to his overwhelming sorrow when his wife Joy died after a short but deeply fulfilling marriage to the middle-aged Lewis.
Lewis tells us that the joy he experienced in his marriage is the reason he was feeling such pain in its absence. And that’s the truth.
When we truly love, it is inevitable there is pain when our loved one dies, no matter how much it is the right time. Our heads can process all this logically, but our hearts still ache. But who would give up all those wonderful years with a loved pet or person just so we don’t have to feel pain after they’re gone?
Coping with that pain is one of the hardest challenges for humans, but there are things that can help us survive this difficult time. Keeping to our normal routines, some relaxation exercises, practising deep breathing whenever we feel tears threatening, and keeping a happy memory of our loved one, that makes us smile, in our memory bank. Having supportive friends to talk with is also vital.
There is also comfort and reassurance to be found in some great words from the Bible. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 7).
One of my favourite Bible lines encourages us to keep going, knowing that things will get better. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30 verse 5).
It might take a bit longer than the morning, but all who have loved will feel joy again after the weeping is over.