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Silence of Absence

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love, and it would be wrong to try and find a substitute: we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation. It remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer” Grieving Is Loving, Dr Joanne Cacciatore, PhD, p 71

Ask anyone who has experienced the death of someone they love and they will tell you that, they miss them, can’t believe they’re gone, need them, want them, and would give anything to say one more time, “I love you”. The absence, in its silence, screams the loudest. Every memory, every pang of grief, every quiet sigh, every wild scream, every gulp for air is born from the silence in the absence. It is in the absence where the reality of the death manifests itself; and nothing can make up for it.

Every attempt at finding a substitute for the absence becomes futile. Oh, it might work for a while, but the silence returns and the absence never goes away. Every distraction imaginable will not fill the void. There will never be enough pills, alcohol, chocolate, chips, cheese, vacations, TV shows, movies, novels, spread sheets, work hours, play dates, small groups, friend groups, support groups, church groups, volunteer hours, journal entries, facebook posts, pinterest boards, quotes, letters, phone calls, trips to the cemetery, miles walked, races run, tears shed, songs sung, pictures colored, new houses, new neighbors, suicide thoughts, fists pounded, screams echoed, dogs adopted or stray cats taken in, to make up for the absence.

There is no substitute. Period.

Think about this for a moment. The reason we are plunged into the deepest darkness in the first place is because we loved deeply. We opened our hearts completely to another human being and it was life changing, fulfilling, exuberant and meaningful.

I cannot imagine finding a substitute for the love I shared with my dad or my grandparents. I cannot imagine substituting the love I felt for my twins as they jostled for space in my womb. I chose love and there is no substitute for the absence. Their death ushered grief into my life.

The interesting shift from agony to acceptance takes place when we decide to surrender. Mr. Bonhoeffer in the above quote calls it “holding out” and “seeing it through”. The absence, whether achingly silent or excruciatingly loud, invites us to be still and listen. We surrender, hold out and see it through. It is in the absence where the consolation is found. It is here, in the absence, where the connection with our loved one is still present. That is the consolation, it is the connection. There will always be a bond between us and or loved one. That bond is in the memory of an event, the lesson learned, the legacy of life, the oneness that exists. The bond is in the shared laughter, struggles and triumphs of life. The bond is the love shared. It is in those moments when the love we shared swells our heart and the fullness of gratitude overwhelms.

It is in these moments when we realize that nothing can make up for the absence and nothing should and nothing ever will. In the silence of the absence, we honor. We hold our hands to our hearts and know great consolation; there is no substitute for our loved one and the absence. The silence is the bond. When the silence is loudest in the absence; the intensity of our love is greatest. The love and loss have become one within us. We are holding out, we are seeing it through, we are surrendering and honoring. We are living with Grief In Life.


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