I just finished a book about grieving and the brain. It explained that while our conscious mind understands that a loved one is dead, our unconscious brain still expects to see them. After years of being close to a person, a part of our being assumes that they are still somewhere nearby — even if we know they are gone. That accounts for the way we might mistakenly “see” our dead spouse in a crowd or expect them to walk in the door at their usual time. Our brain has been trained to expect this. It’s perfectly normal.
I realized that, as Christians, there may be a reason our brains react this way. It’s not an illusion it’s the truth. Those we love have not ceased to exist, they simply exist in another place– a place where we hope to join them in time. As the apostle Paul explains in 1 Thessalonians:
“1Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1fter that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
That doesn’t mean we won’t grieve. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to learn new routines and develop new relationships. It does mean that we have an assurance that those we care about are not gone forever. They are with the Lord, and someday we’ll be there too.
For more about grief see these posts: