Our culture doesn’t do well with grief. “Stay busy,” “Just get yourself a pedicure!,” “Put closure on it,” and other well intentioned ideas send the unintended message that grief is unhealthy or immoral.
This can be especially cruel to care givers.
The sadness we experience is prolonged. It is chronic, not acute. It is our nature to expect progress and reward for effort, and we feel grief and loss when they don’t come.
Like all people, we daydream about wonderful outcomes in all of our great endeavors – education, career, hobby, marriage, parenting and even care giving. We want to see great stuff in the lives of those we love. But we spend long seasons in situations without dramatic results, and sadness builds up inside.
The ancient Near East is called “The Cradle of Civilization.” We know that cultures arising there did not leave grief to the individual, but expected the community to share in any member’s sadness. It is the background to scenes that entered our Western culture via the Bible: “They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly” (Mark 5:38).
The Jewish people have, for thousands of years, included prayers and songs of sadness in their sacred writings. They express deep grief, maybe even depression:
“You have put me into the lowest pit, into dark places, into depths.” (Psalm 88:7)
Closer to home, a Native American man on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota shared,
“There was a time in our communities when ‘professional wailers’ would sit in the back of the church and wail very loudly. As a child, I didn’t understand why they did that, and it felt a little embarrassing. In October, my aunt, whom I referred to as Momma, died. As I sat in the front row, I longed for those women and men who sat in the back and wailed loudly so that the mourners in the front of the church could feel more at ease to do our own mourning.”
Are you able to express your sadness, not as shameful but as sacred?
- “Oh God… You have noted my lamentation; put my tears in your bottle; are they not recorded in your book?” (Psalm 56)
Can you find others who can help you express your grief? It is holy work for people to share:
- “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15)