On Tuesday we met with our counselor again. We were discussing grief and she said that in our current culture we don’t grieve well. Especially in the Christian circles we expect those who have experienced a loss of someone or something dear to them to ‘buck up’ and ‘get over it’. Those who “keep it together” are applauded. Why is that? I think it’s because we are uncomfortable with grief. It’s very hard to watch someone you love cry and be in pain. We don’t want to see that, so we do all we can to avoid being around it and those who are grieving don’t let others see. They want to appear ‘strong’ so they keep it all in while in front of others. I experienced this myself as I watched my kids grieve the loss of our dog this week. I fought back the initial feelings I had of just wanting to take away the pain and do whatever it took to make them stop crying. Instead, I let them cry and cry. I let them take our their anger on the tree branch that fell on our fence which allowed the dog to get out and ultimately get hit by a car. Then needed that. I need that. We all do. If you are grieving you need to be allowed to show your emotions particularly with ones you love.
My husband is going to preach on Sunday and he is pretty nervous about it, why? He has preached a few times before and it always went well, why be nervous now? Because he is talking about grief and he is afraid he won’t make it through this sermon. I told him, it was fine if he didn’t, people need to see grief. They need to know it’s okay to grieve. You are no less a christian if you are sad or angry about your loss. Our counselor told us the story of this christian author and speaker who lost his wife and son in three months time. He got up to speak at a conference just a few months later. He passed around hankies and managed to say about three coherent sentences and just cried the rest of the time. Those who attended the conference said how wonderful it was to see grief, authentic grief, and be allowed to grieve their own losses all together with this man. Wow. That is cool.
In the old testament times and still in Jewish culture in some places today, there are elaborate rules about grief. After a loved one dies people aren’t expected to do much of anything for up to a whole year. They are in a period of mourning. They cut their hair and cry aloud. They even have friends and family who cry for them when they are exhausted. How beautiful. The whole community around them allows them to grieve and grieves with them. We need that in this country. There are so many people around you who are grieving. Maybe it’s not even the loss of a loved one, maybe it’s infertility or the loss of a dream, maybe it’s the loss of a job or a relationship. I don’t know what it might be, there are many things people grieve for. They all need space and time to grieve that loss. They need understanding and love. They don’t need you to ignore the situation and not talk about it. C. S. Lewis writes about the loss of his wife in the book A Grief Observed
“An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some flunk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well-brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.
To some I’m worse than an embarrassment, I am a death’s head. Whenever I meet a happily married pair I can feel them both thinking. ‘One or other of us must some day be as he is now’.”
He states so well how it feels to grieve in the this modern culture sometimes. But it doesn’t have to be like that. We can be aware of those around us who are hurting and allow them space to hurt. This loss has taught me so much about grief and will for a long time to come I imagine. I see the ways I have messed it all up in the past by ignoring those who were hurting around me for fear of knowing the right thing to say. All I needed to do was to put my arms around them and hug them. Be there for them. Ask how they are and just live life beside them while they grieved without expecting anything from them. Applaud them for their honesty and rejoice with them when they feel up to it again. Grief is a journey, not a destination. There are no medals for the one who gets through it first.