Layer Upon Layer

Laying in bed last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I sensed a deep realization…in the pit of my stomach.

I will never be over the grief of losing my brother. This grief is permanent. Not going away, not in this life anyway.

My mind drifted to the promise of Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

To have this weight of sadness stripped from my soul, that is quite a promise.

I recently had lunch with a 76 year old woman. She has lived quite a life – one of sadness, loss, pain, and grief. Yet, she lives joyfully in all things and Scripture pours from her tongue. She stands on the promises.

As I spoke with her, it dawned on me that life’s circumstances mount on us. One on top of the other. Joys. Sorrows. Losses. Celebrations. Milestones. Layer upon Layer. Like an oil painting – layer upon layer of paint, varying colors, varying strokes. All necessary to complete the masterpiece.



photo credit

As I listened to her tell her story, I recognized that she lives with the pain that came in her 20’s, the suffering that mounted in her 30’s, the loss she grieved in her 40’s – layer upon layer. Joys, celebrations, blissful moments interwoven with the darker days.

I began to see my life that way. I will never escape this pain. It will always be a layer in my life. And, daily I add layers on top of the grief, but it remains. It cannot be squashed out, or removed. It will not disappear or blend in until it can no longer be recognized. This grief, this sorrow, this sadness is here to stay.

I keep thinking there is going to be this “thing” that overshadows it, that makes it seem less real, that somehow frees me from the pain, once and for all. But, there isn’t going to be.

I must admit, I feel saddened by this realization. Sad that I will continue to bear the feeling of grief. Sad that it will always be here, a part of me.

Sometimes the memories make me smile. Sometimes weep. Sometimes be still and reflect.

Bitter Joy.

That is the identifier that comes to my mind – I will name this juxtaposition of two opposing emotions. Joy and Sorrow.

The memories are joy-filled, yet bitter as they cross my mind. Of memories lost, of moments that will never be, of time passing day upon day when he is no longer a part of my life. I can and do feel joy as moments flash in my mind.

I see wrinkles crossing my face, feel pains in my joints and muscles that are no longer as nimble or flexible,  and cover the gray hairs regularly. All in attempt to fool myself into thinking that time is not passing. Yet, time is passing, and nothing can bring him back.

I guess I am having a hard time accepting that I will carry this sorrow with me to my grave. This sorrow and others as they come.

We don’t move from one moment to the next – wrapping up the last and leaving it behind. They become a part of us interweaving, layer upon layer.

I guess I have understood that in my head. But, now I am beginning to feel it in my heart. I can’t say that I like it. The ache remains. It will never go away.

I can and will experience joy. I have been promised that…

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5,6

However, I am beginning to understand that Joy doesn’t take away or overshadow the sorrow. Somehow, they coexist. God is teaching me how to live with both…at the same time.

newly purposed,


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11 thoughts on “Layer Upon Layer

  1. I have not experienced grief in the way you have, butI daily feel the hole left by a loss in my life. I have come to the same conclusion you have and I thinkin actually makes life more beautiful. For what I hoped for is lost, but what I hope for now is inperishable.

    • Hi Teresa, Yes, I agree. It does make life more beautiful. Since my loss, I find that I can experience deeper emotions – both the highs and the lows. I find there is more “color” in my life than before. I am not sure how or why this has happened. And, I wonder if others have experienced the same result. Thank you for your comment. Blessings, jana

  2. Jana, I understand exactly the realization you’re talking about. I lost my dad to cancer almost 7 years ago, and I still have dreams where I’m talking to him and then I wake up and experience his loss all over again. God has brought beautiful new things into my life, including a new step-grandfather for my kids, but I can’t help having those moments when I realize, “This isn’t how it was supposed to be.”

    It’s hard to accept when we (or at least I) want so badly to be in control and make things how I want them. It’s hard to understand how this can be God’s way of giving me all the good He promises, and I probably will never understand it this side of heaven. It’s very hard to understand how seriously he means it that we have to forsake EVERYTHING for a single-minded focus on him. That includes our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children…. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them and value them, but if/when they are taken away, still we must rejoice because it isn’t–never was–about them. That’s so tough.

    But I think he understands that. All we can do is keep that focus directly on the One whose hands are big enough and gentle enough to cradle our hurting hearts. There we will find the goodness and the joy to hold us over until, someday, the sorrows of life on broken Earth fade and we understand His goodness fully. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story!

  3. I like your painting analogy, Jana – I think I’ll ‘frame’ my thoughts about it this way…perhaps the layer of sorrow (the darker hues of the painting) gives more depth, more meaning to the lighter, more vibrant hues that are layered on top of it? The contrast maybe allows us to more deeply appreciate our ‘now’ layers. I don’t like that we carry the pain of loss, either, but I trust our God to work it all for our good, as He promises! And, I know that you trust Him, too :-)

    I am sorry for your continuing pain, my sweet friend. I pray that you will know Peace as you carry this burden that our Father is using to make you more like Jesus. Love you :-)

I would love to hear from you!