The end of grief

CPX Associate Emma Wilkins reflects on how the Easter story speaks into our grief and says that death is not the end.

An older friend of mine, whose son died more than 30 years ago, works at a hospital. She once asked a downcast doctor, who had lost his teenage boy two years before, “And how are you?”

An honest answer was invited, he could tell; and so he didn’t just say, “well”.

“People say time heals,” he said—in a way that showed he was yet to fathom this himself.

Three words spilled from her lips: “It never heals”.

Instinctively and full of gratitude, the doctor hugged her tight. She hadn’t offered reassurance, she had spoken honestly, and for a moment, the sorrow that still filled them both—sorrow for their sons, themselves, sorrow for each other, for this world—was shared.

If our existence ends in death, the only way to overcome such profound loss is death. Blood might stop flowing from a wound and pain might ease with time, but for however long a grieving parent survives their precious child, the wound remains.

The only way that “time” can truly, fully “heal”, is for the griever to die too—if existence only, always, ends in death.

I can’t help but doubt it does. I can’t help but think our souls live on somehow.

The Easter story makes an even bolder claim: that physical “perishable” bodies can be raised; that we weren’t made for death, but life.

It has something to do with a creator entering creation—”putting on flesh”—to serve us, to weep with us, to suffer in our place, to show us love. It has something to do with sharing our sorrows; bearing our wrongs to make them right. And everything to do with grace.

It might all sound too strange to even entertain. But is it any stranger than the notion that a person’s life and death are happenstance? That once they are forgotten, they’re no more? That death is “natural”, that it’s the end? Instinctively, I think we sense it’s not.