The last few days have left me grappling with how to return to the ordinariness of life while others still suffer so greatly from their losses.  The thought of it made me feel selfish, indifferent, and uncaring.  But I knew I had to move on, we all must move on.  Then, it occurred to me; maybe the best way to honor those who died is to continue living. 

Let’s allow ourselves and each other to grieve this tragedy or our own tragedies.  Grief is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  Whatever it looks like, however long it takes, let’s allow grieving and healing.

courtesy: mendedhearts127.org

courtesy: mendedhearts127.org

“Good Grief” was a recent topic at church and I’d written something to share on my blog about it last week.  I shelved it the last few days as it seemed trite to speak of any grief being good while the pain is so fresh and raw.  Nevertheless, in the manner of moving on, I’ve decided to post it now.  It is not my intention to trivialize the depth of pain many are experiencing because of the shooting.

Pain and grief are universal experiences; we all must find ways to heal from them and move on.  This is the reason for my post.  Fellow blogger Joseph Pote wrote something very similar this month titled “Christmas Mourning.”  His words spoke right to my heart; I hope you’ll check it out, too.

 

“Merry Christmas!” we cheerfully announce to each other all season long.  But, wait! Is that a greeting or a command?  Must we be merry just because it’s Christmas?  For many of us, Christmas can be a time of mixed emotions.  Unresolved pain resurfaces from divorce, death, or broken relationships; logistics prevent us from spending time with everyone we want to see; and financial stress takes a toll.  Grief can become an unwelcome visitor during the holidays.  We want the joy of the season, but we might not realize that by blocking our opportunities to acknowledge and process grief, we limit our ability to experience joy.

Two verses resonated with me at church recently.  Ecclesiastes 3:4 “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance” and Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  

Romans 12:15courtesy: flickr.com

Romans 12:15
courtesy: flickr.com

They remind me of the Swedish proverb:  ‘Joy shared is multiplied, grief shared is divided.’  Our pastor described the healing effect of mourning in community and how our capacity for joy is directly proportional to our capacity to grieve. 

We’ve got that first part down pat.  We are quick to rejoice and share our celebrations, but unfortunately, we’re often just as quick to shy away from pain.  Tears and depression seem to push people away, yet because we are hurt in relationship, we heal in relationship.  By resisting the grieving process, we rob ourselves of the gift to fully encounter joy.

I’ve learned the truth of that paradox through experiences of my own.  It’s easy to think of instances when I’ve invited people to rejoice with me.  Birthdays, weddings, and babies are events that quickly come to mind.  Examples of sharing grief are a bit more complicated.  But, I’ll share two very different experiences I had in attempting to grieve in community.

A few years ago, when I was struggling through my estrangement with my parents, I called someone who was like a mother figure to me.  I was in tears, and told her I really needed a “mom fix.”  She said she’d be right over, and she must have dropped everything to fulfill her promise.  It was about a 45 minute drive and she was to my house in less than an hour.  She joined me on the couch, and just the relief of her presence made me cry.  Almost immediately, she hopped up and eagerly said “I’ll clean the bathroom and kitchen for you!”  Her message was loud and clear.  You mourn and I’ll clean. 

The Cleaning Ladycourtesy: Amazon.com

The Cleaning Lady
courtesy: Amazon.com

Contrast that experience with another one I had the same year.  Though nervous to reach out again, I called a friend I’d met recently in a personal growth class.  We had alcoholic parents and parental estrangement in common, so I felt an immediate connection.  I told her I was having a really tough day, and she said she’d come over shortly.  A few minutes later she called back to tell me roadblocks from the local parade prevented her from leaving her house.  I thanked her for offering to come, appreciative of her effort.  About an hour later, though, I was surprised to see her at my door.  She’d waited in her car for them to remove the street barriers and had come immediately thereafter.  She sat on the couch with me and we talked and cried together.  Her message was also loud and clear.  You are important to me.  I’ll mourn with you.

Consoling Friendcourtesy: livingthebalancedlife.com

Consoling Friend
courtesy: livingthebalancedlife.com

There was healing power in knowing the effort my friend had put forth to connect with me.  There was even more healing in crying together and somehow my pain truly was divided.  I’ve had to continue being vulnerable, yet selective, in asking safe people to grieve with me.  My deep emotional wounds have required considerable time to heal.  But because I’ve allowed myself the process of mourning in community, I continue to experience new joy more fully than I ever imagined.  I continue to become freer, calmer, and happier. 

How about you?  How does someone else’s grief affect you? What are some ways you’ve experienced or denied your own grief?

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