After Bereavement—What?

by J. R. Miller, 1912

There is something in bereavement, which makes it mean a great deal in a woman's life. It is a sore disappointment. Dreams of love's happiness are shattered. The beauty which had only begun to be realized in her home, in her wedded joy, in her social life, in the development of her plans and hopes—is suddenly left to wither. Very great is the sorrow—when one of two lovers is taken and the other left. Widowhood is very desolate and lonely. When she has been a wife only a brief time, there is special loneliness in her case. The experience is particularly perplexing and trying. For one thing, she has probably had no training in the affairs of life. She has never learned a trade. Her husband, in the gentleness of his manly love, has sought to spare her from everything hard and rough. He has never permitted her even to know of the struggles and perplexities of his daily business life. He has sought to carry home in the evening, only the bright things, the cheerful things, with not a breath of anything that would give pain. He has not permitted his wife to know the smallest things of business. She had no bank account. She did not know how to write a check. She never knew how much money she might properly spend in a month. She had no more idea of business, than a child. The day after her husband's funeral, she saw herself utterly unprepared for the duties and responsibilities which she found suddenly devolving upon her.

Just how shall she meet her perplexities. She is a Christian. She knows that her husband was God's child, and she is comforted by the thought that he is not dead—but has only passed into the immortal life. She is comforted also in her own grief, by the truth of the divine love, that her sorrow was no accident, that her bereavement was not the plan of God to break up the goodness and beauty of her life, that nothing has really gone wrong in the plan of Christ for her. But the question presses itself upon her mind—I am sure it has done so a thousand times—How am I to go on in this broken life of mine? What am I to do in my shattering and bereavement?

Her life is not finished. She is only a girl in years. She may live—she probably will live—forty years or more. What does Christ want her to do with her life? What does he want her to do with the broken dreams that lie shattered about her feet? These questions, and questions like these—are coming to her every day and every night. This is the deeper meaning of her sorrow. Sometimes women in her position see no brightness, find no hope, think the story all written out to the finish, their dream only shattered, and sink away into despair. But that is not the way to meet a sorrow like this. The story of her life is not finished. God's plan for her was not spoiled, when her sorrow came and interrupted everything, leaving her in darkness. The sorrow was only an accident in the plan. It was not a surprise to God, and his plan for her life runs on to the end of her years.

What the remainder of the plan is, she does not know for the present. She must not know. It is not best that she should know. Her faith must not fail, she must not despair. She must go on in trust and confidence. What then is her part?

First, faith in Christ. Believe that all these broken things are in his hands. Let her remember what he said after the miracle of the loaves—"Gather up the broken pieces which remain, that nothing be lost." That is what he is saying to her today. Let her gather up the broken pieces, from this miracle of love and happiness. Let nothing she has had these days of joy, of blessing, of experience, be lost. Let her keep all the fragments.

The next thing is for her to recommit her life—with its grief, its disappointments, its desolation, its broken things—all to Christ. She must not herself undertake to rebuild it. She must not make plans of her own for the years to come. She never needed Christ more than she needs him now, and will need him in the days and the months before her. She must let him lead her, let him plan for her, mark out the way. He must build the life for her. He must have much of the love she has to give.

Bereavement is common. No family long misses a break in its circle. Let the break be met with courage! Courage and unselfishness are developed by great sorrow or suffering. In times of overwhelming danger and disaster, people rise to unusual heroism. George Kennan tells of the remarkable exhibition of courage and generous characteristics shown by the people of San Francisco during the great earthquake and fire. The behavior of the population after the disaster impressed those who witnessed it. One thoughtful and undemonstrative man said he was glad he had lived to see the things that happened the first ten days after the great catastrophe. Those days were the best and most inspiriting, he said, of all his life. Cowardice, selfishness, greed, and all the baser emotions and impulses of human character, practically disappeared in the tremendous strain of that experience; and courage, fortitude, sympathy, good-will, and unbounded self-sacrifice took their places. Men became and for a short time, continued to be all that we may suppose the Creator intended them to be, and it was a splendid and inspiring thing to witness.

A like display of the finer and nobler qualities of human nature, was witnessed that terrible night on the sea, when the Titanic went down. The majority of the passengers and crew behaved with the most remarkable courage, and the most noble unselfishness.

Let God—through your bereavement—bring out the finer and nobler qualities in you.