Articles

Doing the Hard (but necessary) Work of Grieving Well

fallpicLet mourning fulfill its function. Don’t fear it, but embrace it, use it, and baptize it for God’s glory.
Gary Thomas in Authentic Faith

When the phone rang, I felt clueless as to why my then nineteen-year-old daughter was sobbing uncontrollably. As she tried to communicate to me what had happened, she alternated between drawing in short staccato-like breaths and trying to speak. All the while, my mind raced from one possible scenario to another. None of them good.

After a few minutes, she was able to tell me that her dear friend had been killed earlier that morning in a traffic accident. He was only nineteen. The same age as my daughter. As soon as the words sunk in, I felt like someone slammed me against the wall. It hurt, physically. Unable to wrap my mind around the full implications of this young man’s sudden death, I urged my daughter to come home immediately. Together, we wept.

While those early days and weeks were overflowing with emotion, I remember feeling an urgency within my heart to protect my child from any further pain. As I watched her suffer and grieve, I was reminded how little parents can do in such circumstances. Yes, we console, comfort, and support. But the pain is theirs to handle, to work through, and to endure.

Shortsightedly, I prayed God would take her pain away now, this very minute. I wanted immediate deliverance for my child. But I was wrong, I hadn’t taken into account how valuable the entire grieving process is to our heart and soul’s well-being.

As author Gary Thomas says,” To be ‘delivered’ from mourning is to be delivered into a lonely existence, cut off from real life, and, even worse, cut off from real love.” As I stepped back, I realized that the depth of mourning is comparable to the depth of love. Certainly, my daughter should mourn, for she had loved profoundly. Who was I to try and short-circuit her pain? And why?

Admittedly, I was afraid she would fall into depression, grow cynical at life’s injustices, and retreat from us, her family, as a way to cope.

As time passed, I started to better understand how mourning is a gift to our souls. We can’t have genuine “depth” of character without experiencing both the joy and the pain of living. Thomas suggests that, “Mourning is a precondition of comfort. Wanting one without the other shows a desire to be half-human.”

Unless my daughter “worked out” her emotional pain fully, she would be incapacitated for tomorrow’s challenges…and its rewards. There are appropriate times to grieve, mourn, and wail.

And when we’ve finished our sorrowing, we’re better people. More thoughtful, engaged, and caring. Would we not diminish or cut off another’s journey through grief because of our own fears, worries, or uncomfortable ness.

Reflect upon those in your life who’ve endured tragedy. There is a holy solemn-ness characteristic of a person who’s suffered great loss. And, it’s a beautiful thing, that mingling of pain with understanding, goodness, and virtue. Somehow, the hurt is transformed and is replaced with the sweetest of graces.

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