Sometimes, grief hurts like hell. You feel like nothing but a collection of jumpy jangling nerve endings. Or your chest aches; your stomach spins. Other times, you feel nothing at all. Or you forget for a while, then remember with a start. You’ll probably feel guilty.
When you’re grieving, it can be difficult to concentrate. You might feel exhausted, but unable to sleep; on the other hand, you mightn’t be able to wake up, or get out of bed in the morning.
Little things can feel overwhelming. Burned toast can make you yell or cry. So can a thing of beauty, or someone’s kindness.
Blessed are those who grieve, says Jesus, for someday they will laugh (Luke 6:21)—but nobody in their right mind wants to experience grief. And yet, grief comes: unlooked-for, unwanted, but inevitable.
When it comes, don’t turn away. Don’t sedate yourself with work or drink or games on your phone; don’t pretend everything’s fine. Because when you shy away from grief, when you insist that you’re okay, you’re heading for trouble. This trouble is neither punishment nor curse. Instead, when you skate over your pain, you turn from the joy and the healing which flow from God’s loving presence; a little part of you shrivels away.
So when grief comes, engage. Weep, moan, yell. Light a candle, write a journal, call a friend. Go for a walk, chop wood, and pray, pray, pray. Tell God all about your pain, bewilderment, anger, doubt. Like the Psalmist, pick a fight with God. Say what you think about this crappy old world where people suffer and teenagers die. Question life. Question faith. Have a good cry.
For grief is not a blessing in and of itself. Instead, it’s a blessing because it creates an opening. We can block this opening, paper over it, sedate it, pretend it isn’t there. But when we acknowledge it, when we acknowledge our pain and brokenness, emptiness and doubt, God’s spirit can minister to us. God offers abundant life and love and healing: but we have to be open to accept them.
Last week in this region, two teenagers were killed in a car crash; a third is in intensive care. Many of us knew one or another of them; some of us were good friends. In separate incidents the same week, two other people connected with our congregation were gravely injured and wound up in hospital. And in the last month, several of us have seen other friends, colleagues or clients die. As a group, we are reeling; we are shocked, anxious and afraid; and we are grieving.
So in the days and weeks and months to come, let us be gentle with one another; and let us not turn away from our grief, but allow it to crack us open to each other, and to God.
And let us look to the day described by the Psalmist, the day which Jesus alludes to in the Beatitudes: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning … You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my funeral clothes and dressed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. (Psalm 30:5b, 11-12a). The night might be long and dark: but joy is on its way. Let us be open to it when it comes. Let us be ready to dance.
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