John and Rachel tried for six years to enlarge their family. Finally, their first and only child
came into their world, bringing them immense joy! They took baby Emily home and loved her
with their whole heart as they watched her grow.

Emily finally went off to her first day of school, wrote her first A-B-C's, read her first book, and
went to her first carnival. She jumped rope with her first best friend, learned how to ride her first
bicycle, and brought home her first report card. As she was racing along in her world of firsts,
she experienced her first ~ and last ~ accident. She wasn't paying attention when she zoomed
across the street on her bicycle. The quiet neighborhood street had so little traffic, it never
occurred to her to be careful. Dying wasn't on her mind that day. She was only seven years
old.  John and Rachel's world collapsed.

Margaret and James were married for 61 years. They were first loves. They never knew any
other. They dated in high school, married young, raised four beautiful children, and were best
of friends as well as husband and wife for more than half a century. Then, James died, leaving
Margaret in her grief. Where she had lived all of her adult life as half of a whole, now she lives
her days as all of a half.  She's missing the other part of herself ... James. Now, in the
awesome anguish of her grief, and in the twilight of her years, she must try to find herself as a
whole. Life is a struggle, day by day, since Margaret's world collapsed.

Richard lost his beloved wife to cancer. Over the next five years, he lost all three of his
children, one in Iraq, and the other two in separate vehicle accidents.  Richard's heart has
been broken and broken again, over and over. It's a struggle for him to rise out of bed each
morning. His faith falters and he struggles to cling to any hope since his world collapsed.

Julia and Jennifer were identical in every way, on the outside. Inside they were two totally
different personalities. Whereas Julia loved books and movies, Jennifer loved sports and
dancing. Julia loved the mountains, Jennifer loved the beach. But for all their differences, they
were totally devoted to one another. When they were very young, their mother dressed them
identically, but as they matured, they found their own preferences to be quite diverse. But,
even as they grew apart in interests, they remained close sisters throughout the years.

Jennifer was on her third marriage and Julia was working on her Master's degree when
Jennifer died. The accident report said something about wet roads ... driving too fast for the
slick road conditions ... one vehicle accident ... Julia can't recall all of it. Her twin sister of 35
years is dead. Julia's world collapsed.

These stories are just a few of the thousands of stories that happen throughout this country
every single day. Whether it's the loss of a parent, a child, a spouse, a sibling, a friend ... loss
causes great grief.  Whether it's death by natural causes, violent tragedy, suicide, homicide,
illness, or even those unknown causes ... loss causes great grief.

Every grief is different and comes with its own extenuating circumstances. A homicide may
involve police interrogations, courtroom proceedings, and years of additional legal issues
before closure can finally be obtained. Some never experience closure. A loss from suicide
may result in years of unresolved guilt or anger in addition to the grief. Loss of parents may
result in foster care for younger children along with additional legal issues. Each loss carries
with it a set of unique issues pertaining to that specific type of loss, even including financial
hardships and relocation requirements. However different, however similar, grief is still grief.

After losing his father to renal failure and his teenage daughter to a freak vehicle accident, my
uncle David stated, quite profoundly, "When you lose a parent, you lose your history. When
you lose a child, you lose your future."

One thing still holds true:
Any loss results in great grief.

Although I'm not sure I understand why it matters, there seems to be an un-uttered question
resounding in the mind of everyone who is grieving:  Is the grief I'm experiencing the greatest of
all grief?  Is my grief greater than everyone else's?  As bad as our grief hurts, we can't imagine
it could be any worse under any other circumstances. So we ask, who grieves harder, or
longer, or more deeply?

It's as if we need to know: On a grief-scale of 1 to 10, where is my grief? Is this normal?  We
seem to need something to measure it by. Something to reassure us that what we are going
through IS normal.

So, whose loss is greatest? Which truly is the greater grief? While in a small group discussion
recently, these same questions arose. Who grieves harder or longer? Is the widow's grief
greater than the parent? Is the mother's grief greater than the father's? Is grief greater when it's
because of suicide? Or homicide? Or multiple grief?

The answer is really quite simple. The greatest grief of all is your own. It doesn't matter what
anyone else says, or how anyone else tries to measure the loss. You aren't the first person to
experience grief. But you are the first person to experience YOUR grief. Someone you loved
deeply is gone. You can't bring them back. That's the aching reality of it all and there is no
greater grief than that.

There is also no greater hope than the hope we have in Jesus Christ. For we rely heavily on
His promises that life is eternal and we will be reunited with our loved ones again. This doesn't
mean that we won't continue to grieve, missing our loved ones presence in the here and now,
but our HOPE lies in the reunion in that place "where there is no more sorrow".

Jesus said, "Love never fails." That means it can never end. It is eternal. For love to be eternal,
life must be eternal! As your love for the one no longer with you is eternal, find hope in His
promise that "Love never fails."

May this greatest hope give you strength in your greatest grief, and may God bless you and
bring you peace.
The Greatest Grief
© Ferna Lary Mills


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