The Grief of Being Unloved
By Mark Davis Pickup
English writer and broadcaster Claire Rayner (1931-2010) said: “Only the unloved and unloving escape grief.” That is not entirely true. I will reserve comment about the unloving other than to say if they do not know grief in this world they will certainly know it in the next.
The unloved live in grief of the forsaken or the forgotten. There is nothing more tragic than being unloved. Human beings crave love more deeply and more completely than any other desire. It has, I believe, something to do with bearing the Image of God, because God is love.
People crave love from birth. In their 2010 book Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential—and Endangered child psychiatrist Dr. Bruce D. Perry and science journalist Maia Szalavitz explored the human need for love beginning at birth (I would go even further and assert that every child needs love beginning before birth). Perry and Szalavitz show how the human brain is hardwired for love, empathy, and a deep need to connect with others. Depriving a child of love can have detrimental lifelong effects on them and others.
Indeed, I cannot think of anything more heartbreaking than being unloved, and knowing it.
The grief of being unloved gnaws at a soul and darkens the landscape of their lonely and monotonous existence. It can drive a person to desperate, destructive behavior. Being unloved (or thinking one is unloved) will cause people to give up on life and can even drive them to suicide.
Although I have known great physical, emotional, and spiritual pain associated with neurological disease, I have been spared the horrible agony of being unloved. Love has been the greatest beauty of my life, second only to being forgiven by a merciful God, through Jesus Christ, for a litany of sin. I would rather suffer a thousand stabbing pangs of physical pain than to be unloved. But alas, the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church tell me and you there is no such thing as an unloved person! Do not trust feelings as truth.
You may not know earthly love, but you have always been loved by the Author of love: Jesus Christ. We know this because the Bible and Church tell us so! Christ has been knocking at the door of your heart waiting for you to open it. He said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:19). In His immense and unfathomable love, Christ has always been calling you. He wants to enter your life and dine with you. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (2011) says that the reference to a meal may be the Lord’s Supper. The presence of Christ and His love is abundantly evident in the Blessed Sacrament.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love which he loved us ‘to the end’” (1380).
The Blessed Sacrament is the sacrament of love.
Christ’s love for those without earthly love, the dejected and rejected—those who the world may deem to be “the least of these”—is beyond doubt. His love is perfect and bids them to come near.
Jesus said, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. . . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:9, 12.) His words are true and faithful; his love exceeds any earth-bound love. All people can know complete joy. It comes from abiding in Christ’s love, which is available to all humanity. This is why there is no such thing as an unloved person, just people who do not know they are loved. But they must be open to divine love for divine love’s sake and on divine love’s terms—the “Yes of Jesus Christ,” to use Pope Benedict’s phrase.
On this point where a chronically ill person like me and the chronically lonely can stand in unity; all sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. We will yet bask in the warm embrace of Love Himself and finally know as we have always been known.
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 28 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. He writes a column for Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2015/11/the-grief-of-being-unloved.html.