[Pencil Drawing Mitch Carmody]
To grieve well: How do people do this? People will answer differently.
I have seen some down on the floor, howling as though travailing in child birth; others are quiet and still. Grief is unique to each person. The question is important for me to think about as every client is grieving something – loss of child, a marriage, seasonal passages, i.e. adolescence to adulthood, place, time, a role, people, history . . . A few years ago I attended the funeral of a dear friend of mine, 35 years old. He was a son, brother, friend, tireless evangelist for Jesus. It’s agonizing to think his voice will not be heard, or presence enjoyed again until Heaven.
One way I have learned to grieve is through music. Sometimes I will listen to Mozart’s Requiem. Requiems are usually presented in traditional latin liturgy as the mass for the dead. They are filled with images of the horrors of the Last Judgment. The tones are somber and summon sorrow and grief. At times though, my grief will not resolve and I get stuck in a deeply despairing and hopeless sadness.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to listen to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performing Brahms German Requiem. This was a new requiem for me. Instead of latin liturgical phrases, Brahms’ text is compiled from the Old and New Testament. He seeks to comfort the living who must deal with and accept death. A Requiem for the living!!! In Matt. 22.32 Jesus says, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Brahms requiem is in stark contrast to the overwhelming sorrow of Mozart’s unfinished requiem. At times, I felt swept away by words, music and the conductor’s artful direction of the requiem. Like breathing — life-giving.
To grieve well is not dwelling on pollyannish platitudes, but embracing human frailty and suffering along with glorious victory through Jesus. Hope, promise, and comfort for the living in the stark face of grief. In John 11.25 Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.'”
Back to the symphony’s presentation. Two people sitting around me were sleeping – one of them snoring. I smiled, but felt sad, too. All too often, the response to grief is resistance to the experience. Who wants to feel the agony and anquish of loss? Grief is hard, exhausting work and, at times, appears to be without end. I choose sleep sometimes, and count that a gift of God. But I am also exhorted to wake up —“Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”(Eph. 5.14) – to stay connected to the process of weeping and mourning for a season.
I feel hopeful. Still lingering in the joyous celebration of resurrection of Jesus. This is the best way I know to help clients grasp their losses.
To grieve well? Deep sadness-deep gladness; it’s both/and.