An epiphany through the eyes of grief

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Robert Edwin Dahl


In a scene from the movie, Sleepless in Seattle, a recent widower suffering from the typical grief reaction of insomnia tries to rest on the couch. We don't know if the widower, played by Tom Hanks, is actually asleep and dreaming or just trying to sleep, but his late wife appears with him on the couch, and they carry on a conversation as if she were alive and well. Only she is not talking from the perspective of this life. She's communing with him "from the other side," so to speak. One thing we know for sure; he is aware of her presence. Then, as instantaneously as she appears, she disappears.

The scene is not unlike an experience I had about a year after my wife died. In my case, I was awake. I was aware of my late wife Doris's presence in the room, although I was not completely sure of her identity until she spoke. She but called my name and disappeared—an ever so brief moment that has affected my life profoundly. It has proven to be an epiphany for me in my  bereavement, for with it the light of God's mercy began to shine in the darkness of my grief.

That is not to say, of course, that the epiphany was the only healing event in the aftermath of my wife's death. From the first day, I was surrounded by concern, care, prayer, empathy, and love from friends and relatives. I knew that my family had a history of not dealing well with bereavement, so, within a week of her death, I began therapy that lasted for two years. Also, I joined a twelvestep group. These were all major threads in the fabric of my healing. Still, as I reflect on the history of that healing, I have come to see the epiphany as the turning point, the moment I can actually mark as the one when I knew that I would not just survive but, in fact, thrive. Then, on a more spiritual level, I began to understand that survival wasn't the issue at all, that death and resurrection were the issues, for in some sense in Doris's death I experienced my own. I found myself in the confines of the tomb with darkness surrounding me and permeating my being. The question became, Was there life after death—for Doris in eternity, for me on this side of physical death, for the world?

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How to Cite
Dahl, R. E. (2002). An epiphany through the eyes of grief. Reformed Review, 56(1). Retrieved from