Living in the gap

Fall is upon us. The trees are dropping their leaves, giving way to bare branches, cool nights and shorter days. This threshold season – both beautiful and mournful – can be especially poignant for those who grieve.

German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned during World War II for his outspoken resistance and actions against the Nazi regime, described loss as a gap in us that cannot and should not be filled.

He wrote in his “Letters and Papers from Prison:”

“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn’t fill it, but on the contrary, keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain.” 

In grief, others may push us to “move on” or “get over it,” but the reality of loss is far more complex. Those we love are unforgettable and irreplaceable. Nothing fills the gap they leave in us. But that open space in our heart remains as a kind of invitation. By preserving the gap, we protect the bond with our loved one, honoring their memory and the possibility that their presence might remain with us, even as we move through this next season.


Optage Hospice Chaplain Jenny Schroedel facilitates grief groups across PHS sites and in the larger community. Jenny is also an author, most recently of Naming The Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death.

If you are interested in joining a group, contact Optage Hospice or call 651-746-8200. Optage is the home and community services division of Presbyterian Homes & Services.



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