Hope When Your Heart Is Broken

Ron HutchcraftBy Ron Hutchcraft7 Minutes

Excerpt from Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking: Finding God’s Presence in Your Pain by Ron Hutchcraft

Chapter 6

Hope When Your Heart Is Broken

Grief is the price we pay for pain.

The blue chair. It is the daily reminder of the woman we’ve lost.

My Karen had her share of health problems over the years, and that recliner served her well. Oh, she was “out and about” too, but when she was in our great room, that was her spot. And her headquarters. From which she touched hundreds of lives by phone, by text, by e-mail, by Facebook. The blue chair. It is the daily reminder of the beloved woman we’ve lost.

When her sudden, massive heart attack hit, that’s where it happened. One of the most heart-wrenching moments was our youngest grandchild’s first time in that room after her homegoing. His four-year-old heart and mind just hadn’t been able to comprehend his “Nali-Ma’s” passing. Or even believe it. In fact, he kept insisting that his mom and dad were just joking with him. Until the day after when they brought him out to our house.

As usual, this human lightning bolt of a grandson ran full speed for the great room, his mother trying to keep up. By the time she got there, he’d been to the blue chair. He looked up and simply said, “You were right, Mommy. She’s gone.”

Those two words, spoken with childlike innocence, said it all for all of us.

She’s gone.

We’ve been trying to figure out all that means since that day.

Oh, you can look up grief in the dictionary and find words that try to define it. Like “the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away.”

But there are no words to capture the anguish, the helplessness, the lonely cry of the human soul when you realize you’ve seen and held that cherished one for the last time this side of eternity.

You are gasping for the oxygen of hope. For us, with Jesus in the equation, we could quickly declare the resurrection-guaranteed hope of heaven’s glory for Karen.

But we’re not in heaven. Feeling like a knockout punch had just leveled me, I could not even begin to picture life without my lifetime love. Hope for Karen? I’m good with that part. Hope for us here—we were battling to find it.

Because grief may be the most powerful of all hope robbers. Many people never really come back from the knockout blow. They spend the next years lost…sometimes withdrawing to an emotional island all alone…maybe angry or bitter or just plain sad most of the time. Or making desperate choices to ease the pain—only to add to it.

In a blog entitled “The Best Grief Definition You Will Find,” Russell Friedman offers a quote that fulfills what the title promises. Apparently, we don’t know who said it—but they went far beyond a sterile dictionary description to the daily emotional reality: “The feeling of reaching out for someone who’s always been there, only to discover when I need her (or him) one more time, she’s no longer there.”

That “reaching out” for my baby happens over and over again.

Because she played a part in my life no one else could ever play.

I am strangely lonely. Strangely, because I’m blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who surround me with love. So many don’t have that.

But Karen and I had—and I have lost—the one-of-a-kind love of a shared life. Where you’ve shared virtually every joy, every heartache, every battle, every relationship, every major life experience. There’s no one else on this planet with whom I’ve lived my entire adult life.

So when I lost her, I lost our history. All the people—I just had to say a name. All the places—I just had to mention it. All the things we’ve laughed at—just say a word or a punch line. All the things we’ve prayed about…struggled with…cried over…celebrated and worried about in our kids. The list is endless.

But when I reached out to her about countless questions and decisions and fears, she had all the context of our lifetime. That all left when she left.

It’s not like I’m crying all the time. My very busy life goes on. One day, searching for words to describe how all of us loved ones are feeling, I landed on a simple example.

I told my son, “It’s like there’s this upbeat, major-key tune playing constantly as the musical score of my life. But always—just underneath all that—is this quiet, minor-key score playing too. It’s not usually dominant, but it’s always there.”

My son said, “That’s it, Dad!”

Oh, every once in a while, it’s like someone suddenly turned that underscore up full blast. It drowns out the brighter score that usually dominates. That’s usually when the tears come.

“Mom-bushes” we call them. We got ambushed by an unexpected Mom moment or memory. They are sweet moments. Bittersweet.

Somehow, in the middle of the most broken moments of my life, I realized something that has ultimately spelled hope for me. Since I was hardly capable of thinking clearly, I can only assume that God led me to this game-changing conclusion: “I have to choose what I will do with this grief.”

As lost as I felt, I did choose. I started a journal in an unused journal of Karen’s. And days after she left, I wrote these words in bold at the top of the page: I WILL NOT WASTE THIS GRIEF!