On Grief…

10 Aug

“I’m tired of all this – so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights on the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope” (Psalm 6:6-7- In the Message).

“A tear is an intellectual thing.” William Blake

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When we’ve experienced profound loss what follows in its wake is a grief so profound it defies vocabulary as we try to talk about our loss in a psychotherapist’s office or hope that some pharmaceutical prescribed by a doctor will miraculously wipe away our pain. Instead we’re left with a well of emotions most of us have no knowledge of how to navigate, particularly in our ever fast-paced society that allows little room for the reflective, messy process that grief ultimately demands.

When I was a little girl I loved watching old movies and remember being enamored by the beautiful hoop dresses women would wear in period pieces. Even more striking was the fact that sometimes heroines would wear black dresses if they were in mourning. I didn’t understand this custom. It seemed odd to me that someone would be required to wear black for an entire year after the death of a family member. Years later however, after my mother passed away, there were many moments when I longed to wear black to signify that I was still grieving. While others not related to my mom quickly moved on with their lives after attending the memorial service, my feelings were as raw as an open wound. I was being indoctrinated into the grieving process and wanted relief from people yakking at me in the grocery store or asking me to work extra hours at the office. I simply didn’t have the bandwidth but without black to signify my mourning state to others, my grief went incognito.

When someone has a physical illness, we see its manifestation in the form of physical symptoms. When we break our leg, we wear a cast; if we cut our fingers, we see blood. But what of the human heart and spirit’s suffering when no one sees the pain? Often our grief is unrecognized making it all the more difficult to contend with. Given this, we need to learn how to mourn in a culture that often fails to see emotional pain and when it does, too often backs away in fear. Even when acknowledging our pain, we rarely know how to cope with it for there is no simple formula for transforming it. Instead grief presents as a vast ocean threatening to sweep us away in its current. Yet as a friend of mine once wrote, “I sometimes wonder how we all go on, when I think of all we go through and endure, but we do, and grief becomes, strangely its own cure, and we find ourselves laughing and in joy, which at first feels like a betrayal and becomes eventually an act of remembrance and celebration.”

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