The Empty Chair: Missing Loved Ones
How to find hope in the midst of grief during the holidays and other significant dates.
If you are missing a loved one today, you are certainly not alone.
As our yearly calendar rolls through each month, culminating with Thanksgiving and Christmas and then begins the New Year, the days that should be merry and sweet often underscore the pain we feel.
The empty chair
Instead of being joyful, holidays, along with birthdays and other significant dates, point to the empty chair of the loved one who is no longer there.
How can you find hope in the midst of missing a loved one? Is it even be possible?
A poem of loss
If you are facing loss right now, perhaps you feel like the words from the poem, “Drear Nighted December” by John Keats:
“In drear nighted December
Too happy, happy tree
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity”
Keats points to a tree that doesn’t recall the greenness of spring, a metaphor that captures the dark and cold feeling of the winter season. While this poem might not be specifically about losing a loved one, it certainly could be, as it underscores a feeling of hopelessness.
The words cut to the heart of the lack of hope that many people feel when they are missing a loved one.
The loss of future years
The difficulty of life is that sooner or later, we will all grieve.
Death is part of life, but so often, our loved ones die sooner than they should, especially from cancer or other hardships. An estimated 609,000 people will pass away from cancer in the United States this year. That’s literally millions of people, families and friends, who face a hole that can never be filled.
Especially difficult is losing someone in the prime of life. Losing a loved is hard at any age, but those who pass at a younger age only underscore the pain—the loss of future years that seem guaranteed.
Sitting in the pain
When we face a loss, the only appropriate response is to allow ourselves to feel the pain, to be aware of how much we miss them.
Those that run from grief from missing loved ones will only face it later in unexpected and potentially destructive ways.
Sometimes we need to get honest about our pain, as this quote reveals:
“You can’t truly heal from a loss until you allow yourself to really feel the loss,” says author Mandy Hale.
Loss of hope
However, rehashing the pain for long periods of time can sometimes bring us to hopeless places. We may think, I will never feel good again. I will never be happy again.
And while it is good to grieve and feel sad on their behalf, these thoughts over time, especially with no hope for the days ahead, can bring us to dark places—including depression and destructive coping mechanisms.
The crack of light
However, hope is possible in the midst of the pain.
As the popular song by Leonard Cohen says, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
There are places in Alaska during November and December where the sun doesn’t shine for two months or more.
Perhaps your grief has felt like that—ongoing darkness, for months or even years, with no light in sight.
However, what if you could let the light in?
The Bible speaks of God’s light in dozens of verses, including John 1:5: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
Letting the light in
Did you know that God sees your pain and understands what you are going through? He doesn’t tire of your grieving and tears. And he won’t, even as it can continue for months and years.
He longs to grieve with you and give you hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.
As the book Psalms says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (34:7).”
God is near you—even more than you ever realized was possible.
The comfort of God
God longs to comfort you.
As Jesus says: “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”
Would you like to experience the hope and comfort of God?
Ask God for help and he will open the door to a hope and light you never dreamed existed.
Perhaps you have already discovered his light, but your pain has made you feel separated from him.
Talk to God…tell him how you feel. He can handle all of what you are experiencing.
A simple prayer for light
Today is a good day to let God’s light in.
Perhaps this prayer expresses the desire of your heart:
Lord, please shine your light into my darkness. You know my grief over the loss of _____. I miss them so much! Please God, come and give me comfort in the midst of my pain. Bring me hope in the midst of hopelessness. Help me to honor the loved one I am missing but also experience your comfort. Amen.
Today, even as you feel the pain of the “empty chair,” may you experience comfort and hope as you let God’s light into your life—a light that brings hope even in darkness.
For more about peace, see the Gift of Peace.
For more on this topic, read Understanding Grief and Loss.
To learn more about prayer, see Asking God for Help.
I have a question or comment
How to know God’s hope, strength and peace
Note: We are not doctors and we cannot answer your medical questions. However, we welcome your questions about finding hope and knowing God.