When Saying Goodbye Opens Old Wounds – Serenity in Suffering

Donna Bucher

Silence. The finality of death is both silent and deafening at the same time. There is no silence that speaks louder than death. This is life’s hardest goodbye, made more painful when saying goodbye opens old wounds. You see the old wounds of grief never truly heal; they bleed again with each new loss. Grief is a mortal wound to the heart, yet unmerciful in that the heart goes on beating when we would rather it did not. Grief is the sound of a broken heart saying goodbye; revealing the depths of love treasured within.

Time is more merciful; for in its passing the pain of loss lessens. We are fooled into thinking the grief wound healed, we live again. Yet the wounds of grief never truly heal, they become a part of who we become after loss. I was reminded of this truth with the recent loss of beloved “Bella Noel”, my son’s dog. Bringing enormous joy upon their arrival, nothing seems to prepare us for the tremendous sadness of our pets’ departures from our life. We are less prepared when saying goodbye opens old wounds.

Who rescued who?

young man hugging pitbull on his lap when saying goodbye opens old wounds

I first met Bella on January 1, 2010, when she burst through my front door ahead of my son on New Year’s Day. She promptly ran across every piece of furniture before stopping on the sofa to await my son. We all sat staring in shock, my son hadn’t mentioned having a dog, much less bringing her to the New Year’s celebration. My dog, Golda, sat with a comical expression of horror on her face; in our house dogs received no permission to mount the furniture! My son stepped through the door and with a chagrined smile, said, “This is Bella, she’s the reason I’m late.”

A 2 year old boxer, pitbull mix, Bella was a rescue that experienced abuse. My son heard about her through a co-worker, and the rest, as they say is history. Though technically, my son rescued Bella, I will always believe it was Bella that rescued my son. A time of life’s hardship journeyed with him, and Bella brought joy back into his eyes and gave him a purpose. In fact, Bella’s unusual ways brought some much needed joy to all of us.

the old wounds of grief

Bella’s lifetime saw many more happy family celebrations, my son’s marriage and companionship with my daughter-in-law’s dog, Jags. Sadly, Bella’s lifetime also saw the grief of my son’s stillborn daughter, Indigo Evangeline, the torment of my son’s past demons push him to self destructive behaviors and the end of a beautiful marriage. As my son grew more and more troubled, falling deeper into addictions, he pushed us away from him. Bella grew closer to my daughter-in-law and remained with her, where she lived out the final two years of her life.

close up of pitbull face wearing a fuzzy headband when saying goodbye opens old wounds

In situations like this, when saying goodbye opens old wounds, I am reminded that with each fresh encounter with grief, previous losses are the old wounds that bleed once more. As I wrote about in this post, the experience of grief is not exclusive to death. Life losses related to financial hardship, divorce, home or independence all trigger grief. For me, Bella’s death opened the old wounds of my son’s troubled life. Drawing a fresh reminder of the 20 months that passed without seeing him. My son’s choice is a heartache I live with daily, but the finality of death heightens any loss. The other thing accomplished by Bella’s death, was the cutting of the final tie between my son and my precious daughter-in-law.

saying goodbye again

Grief demands we say goodbye again. As I said goodbye to Bella, the old wounds relating to my son’s life bled again. All of the losses revealed their grief that still lived there under the surface. Each evoked its own memory, vivid in painful detail. Old grief mingled with new, begged for a hearing. Expressed in tears, the language love uses to grieve. The old wounds tell again their story of love and loss.

While each fresh encounter with grief opens old wounds, it also purveys memories of beauty we experienced. We would not know joy apart from sorrow. As Bella’s death ushers in new grief and opens old wounds, I also remember happier times. I relive the beauty of her life, the happy times with my son and his wife and the privilege of holding Indie, if only for a moment. Yes grief demands we say goodbye again, but in so doing it reminds us of the beauty of life and love.

When saying goodbye opens old wounds

The finality of any loss brings grief. In that finality we learn to say goodbye, we learn grief is the price we pay to love. But at the same time, it is love that preserves the beauty of the life, situation or relationship lost. Though the old wounds remain, the memories remain too. New grief opens the old wounds and forces us to feel the pain. But then offers the opportunity for another goodbye, another chance to cherish the gift we held and loved. For what we once loved deeply becomes a part of us.

When saying goodbye opens old wounds, the balm that soothes the pain of grief is hope. The hope we have that this life is not all there is. For a day is coming when Christ will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more. (Revelation 21:4) We know that the Lord is near to all who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). Having the courage to feel the pain of old wounds rather than deflecting the emotions, exposes our grief to the light of Christ. When we bring our grief into Christ’s light, it is free to complete its purifying work in our lives. For it is grief that purifies love.

Sometimes we don’t want to heal because the pain is the last link to what we’ve lost.


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All content is copyrighted and the intellectual property of Donna M. Bucher, Serenity in Suffering 2020.

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