Since 2015, I have been flattened to the ground by loss, been left zapped of all energy by the death of a loved one, and seen friends and co-workers who I talked to one week be dead a week later. I never knew this kind of grief before 2015. Sure, I had mourned the loss of Grandparents and people in my community but grief was different. It seemed to come with crippling loneliness, unsettling numbness, loss of vitality, and exhaustion; sometimes all at once.
I have seen grief’s work on people that I work with who have lost a parent or a child. I have noticed in my own experience and in theirs the waves of grief that seemed to crash with unsteady force at odd times and then be non-existent at other times. As I sought counseling and read about grief I noticed that most experts agree that grief, as miserable as it can be, is doing work that is necessary and can even be beneficial. The key, often, is to embrace it and accept its presence and acknowledge that it serves a purpose.
Tish Harrision Warren says, “I’ve come to also see grief as part of the everyday experience of being human in a world that is both good and cruel. In this sense, grief is a constant for us. It is a real and right response to our vulnerability.”
Warren goes on to say:
“Grief is stubborn. It will make itself heard or we will die trying to silence it. If we don’t face it directly it comes out sideways, in ways that aren’t always recognizable as grief: explosive anger, uncontrollable anxiety, compulsive shallowness, brooding bitterness, unchecked addiction. Grief is a ghost that can’t be put to rest until its purpose has been fulfilled.”
What I began to understand is that productive grief is the kind that is embraced and even invited to stay awhile so that it can do its work. Warren states that Christians should be a lamenting people and ones that make time and space for grief. Could it be that one of the ways that we do not conform to the ways of this world is by rejecting our society’s hyper-avoidance of grief and instead be a people that one of their defining characteristics is their ability to mourn and embrace grief?
Dare I say that in the midst of a never ending pandemic and humanitarian catastrophes all around, that the world needs Christians to be a grieving people so that we can show what faithful mourning looks like. We can also speak to the hope that we have in Christ and the assurance that God is with us and that holy joy is even present in the midst of dark, dark times. Tell me the world doesn’t need to see that in us.
I am beginning to see grief as less of a hurtful and aggressive acquaintance and more a friend that has to show up and do his thing in the presence of God in order for me to catch the wisdom that grief provides and the depths that God’s love can go. My friend grief, though not always welcome, is part of God’s path to bring healing in my pain.