"I cannot live with the memories, and I cannot live without them. Hope for the future functions similarly. It is impossible not to imagine the future, and it is equally impossible to imagine the future without using the present as material for our imagination. After doing woodworking as a hobby, for instance, you can imagine a career in carpentry. After viewing slides of New Zealand, you can imagine what it would be like to travel there. After winning your first college debate, you can dream about becoming a great trial lawyer. The problem with those who have suffered loss is that they are deprived of familiar material from the present in order to envision the future...Whenever I thought about the future, I still found them there. But they were never going to be there, which only made me more aware of how devastating my loss was. Thus, like my view of past memories, my view of the future reflected ambivalence. I remembered a past that included people I did not want to give up, and I imagined a future that excluded people I desperately wanted to keep. For a time I was deprived, therefore, of the comfort that good memories provide and of the hope that a good imagination creates. That is why the present was so barren to me and is so hopeless for many who face tragic loss. This barrenness can be overwhelming. 'Will this emptiness continue forever?' we ask ourselves. 'Will I feel this way for the rest of my life?' 'Am I doomed to sail forever on a vast sea of nothingness?' These questions expose the depths of sorrow to which people who suffer such loss often descend.
...Andy and Mary will never 'recover' from their loss. Nor can they. Can anyone really expect to recover from such tragedy, considering the value of what was lost and the consequences of that loss? Recovery is a misleading and empty expectation. We recover from broken limbs, not amputations. Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. Whatever the future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it. Sorrow never entirely leaves the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss. If anything, it may keep going deeper. But this depth of sorrow is the sign of a healthy soul, not a sick soul. It does not have to be morbid and fatalistic. It is not something to escape but something to embrace. Jesus said, 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.' Sorrow indicates that people who have suffered loss are living authentically in a world of misery, and it expresses the emotional anguish of people who feel pain for themselves or for others. Sorrow is noble and gracious. It enlarges the soul until the soul is capable of mourning and rejoicing simultaneously, of feeling the world's pain and hoping for the world's healing at the same time. However painful, sorrow is good for the soul. Deep sorrow often has the effect of stripping life of pretense, vanity, and waste. It forces us to ask basic questions about what is most important in life. Suffering can lead to a simpler life, less cluttered with nonessentials. It is wonderfully clarifying. That is why many people who suffer sudden and severe loss often become different people."
Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised