A good friend recently died. His widow feels cheated. Married in their late 50’s, each expected a blissful 20 years. Instead they numbered seven.
Now Elyse experiences a deep sorrow, unlike any she has ever known. She suffers from mental distress. The common name given this malady is grief.
Numerous articles explain ways to rid the mind and soul from this tormenting emotion. Few have contemplated the question “What if there were no grief?”
Think about it for a moment.
Not only would life in this society change drastically, but values and faith, as well.
Funerals as such would take on a new flavor. A brief respect for the departed may be all that occurs, if that. No one would feel remorse or mourn the passing of another. Why should they? There is no grief.
Memories of the deceased would be neither poignant nor painful. Only the technical aspects (i.e. how Mom baked bread or how Uncle Freddie planted the garden) would be passed on. The funny incident, when Bob fell in the icy river wile smelting and camp up with fish leaping out of his boots, would cause no pang of sorrow or loss. It would be just another fishing story soon to be forgotten.
Not only would the death of a person take on new dimensions, but society as a whole would change. People would become more mobile. No grief in uplifting roots or leaving families, neighborhoods and the familiar would hamper transitions.
Individuals may become more callous and cruel in relationships. Along with grief, remorse, anguish, sorrow and sadness would be no more. Mercy would be lost.
Many holidays would lose their significance. Why have Armistice Day to remember the dead who sacrificed for freedom? The Fourth of July would become a frivolous celebration without acknowledging the price for liberty.
On another level, if grief were nonexistent, Mary Magdalene would not have gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body and week for her Friend. She would not have been on her knees, her eyes filled with tears if there were no grief. She wouldn’t have been there; no one would have been there. Who would have witnessed the resurrection?
If there were no grief, Jairus would not have asked for the healing of his daughter, nor would we pray for the healing of others. For what purpose would healing have, if deep sorrow, anguish and grief no longer existed? Illness and death would have no more effect that killing an unwanted fly at the dinner table.
Individuals experience grief; many wish they didn’t have to. What happens to persons who deny the feelings of grief?
Some become cold and callous in a world full of others who are willing to love and support. These individuals closet their feelings never to share or trust again for fear of feeling that deep, biting hurt which only grief can bring.
Others stifle emotions, only to suffer greater anguish through the trials of breakdowns. Some develop an ironclad will and a motto which reads: Do it to others before they can do it to you.
Grief is a crummy feeling, but fortunately grief is a part of life. Books have been written on how to get out of grief – be rid of it. If grief were totally absent, life would lose much of its essence, preciousness and purpose.
Human beings need to go through the grief process every time something or someone is lost. Not that one should wallow in grief; but one should experience it, not shut it out. Exhaust the sorrow until it becomes an impotent pang tugging at memories of the heart.
Talk about the event. Relate the incident of another person or write it down in journal form until the sense of urgency is gone.
When you lose a friend, find others who share your loss. Relate the funny incidents. Speak of personal habits unique to the person, idiosyncrasies never to be seen again. Sharing, communing around the memories is a way to free the grief.
Letting tears flow enables one to cope with grief. The gift of tears is one to be cherished; the one who cannot cry often develops a heavy heart and gloomy countenance.
Even the human body sends messages – shock waves – of grief, forcing persons to take time to heal the deep wounds. The body becomes tried more easily. Activities are tedious and burdensome. They lose their sense of fun, challenge and excitement. This is part of the grief process.
Grief is a very uncomfortable, awful feeling; but it is necessary. Grief shakes the very foundation of who we are and where God is.
Perhaps the greatest account of grief came from the writer of Lamentations. He wrote the book following the most devastating trial in Jewish history (not withstanding the Holocaust 60 years ago. Lamentations bespeaks grief. These passages harbor a story of hurt, frustration and confusion. Only in chapter three does a flag of hope fly.
The Lord’s true love is surely not spent.
nor His compassion failed;
they are new every morning,
so great is His constancy.
The Lord, I say is all that I have;
therefore I will wait for Him patiently . . .
it is good to wait in patience and sigh
for deliverance by the Lord (NEB)
Each line in Hebrew begins with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. From A to Z, the writer declares his message of hope to the bereaved.
What lessons are to be learned from our Jewish friends! What grief they have had to bear! Their resource fro seeing it through is God; their healing is done with words.
The next time grief strikes bear grief out as the writer of Lamentations did. Find solace and strength in community. Discover support from god’s love and His Word. Don’t be too quick to shut grief off.
Think but a moment, what this world would be like if, alas, there were no grief.
Author Note: Dr. Linda Beattie, a former Lutheran pastor and family counselor, has experienced grief in the loss of her husband, child and grandparents and helps others deal with theirs in her interactive workbook, Becoming Me: A Journey Towards Self-Discovery for the Child, Adolescent and Adult.