Indeed, my brother expressed it best: “How did that happen?”
Even in the midst of the sadness, I felt a touch of humor: “Well, you remember he’s been sick for seven years?”
He’d lost so much: our mother, his health, his independence, his ability to speak by the end. We’d had such a difficult time as he battled mortality, and yet all I could think was, “I want to curl up somewhere for a week and just mourn. Don’t the Jews call it ‘sitting shiva’?”
My husband didn’t know.
But life needed to lived in 2002 and I could not slow down.
I should have.
Several years later, a counselor listened to my stories. She set down her pen. “You have a lot of unresolved grief in your life.”
No one had recognized that before.
She was right.
But what to do with grief? How do we process it and get through it?
God in human form–the one who wept, the one who felt pebbles in his sandal, the one who knew the taste of wine and listened to birdsong–he lost a member of his family. What did he do?
He withdrew in a boat to a desolate place by himself.
Jesus needed space and time to contemplate that loss of John.
But like me when I had children needing my attention, Jesus, too, was sought after by others, folks who may not have known of his personal anguish.
So after a time, he rowed himself back to land where the crowds waited. Compassion for them surged–Jesus, of course, had emotions raw–and he healed them.
Jesus did not avoid his job.
That night the disciples, who surely knew of John’s death, came and pointed out the place was isolated and the people were hungry.
Jesus told them to feed the crowd.
This story is told in all four gospels, so it’s obviously important.
The chief mourner gave instructions and when his helpers couldn’t follow through, Jesus got up and performed a miracle–the same day as his great personal loss.
At the close of the event, Jesus sent everyone off –including the disciples–and he again took time by himself to pray.
More miracles occurred after this event (including walking on the water that night), but perhaps on that first night Jesus needed the reassurance that only focused prayer with His Creator could provide.
Maybe he needed a little more time to mourn, to reorient himself to a world without the man who had been sent to announce his coming. Maybe Jesus needed to contemplate the realization of his own death.
Quiet time alone with the God who created me and the people I loved, a time where in essence I can crawl into God’s lap and weep, sounds like the right response to grief to me.
What about you?
It often sneaks up and strikes when I least expect it, even after many years.
I cry more easily than I did 17 years ago. If something makes me feel sad, I let myself accept that emotion and experience it. Tears of grief acknowledge the importance of that person in my life. Click to Tweet
A friend of my mother’s told me, “Laughing is the closest thing to crying and it honors the person you love.” Click to Tweet
So what to do with grief?
I give it to God. I weep. I remove myself for a time and prayer. I acknowledge the pain. I feel the emotion.
Often, my next reaction is to feel compassion for everyone else who has experienced loss.
Just like Jesus.
What you have you learned about grief? Grief isn’t just about the loss of people you love, but also the loss of dreams, careers, ideas, plans, sometimes even hope. What have you found that works for you?