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Wednesday January 3, 2018

 

C. S. Lewis used these powerful words to describe the loss of his wife, Joy: "Her absence is like the sky, spreading over everything." Grief penetrates deep and spreads wide. It leaves its cold fingerprints on everything it touches. There are few things more difficult in life than living in the shadow of death. It is a cold and lonely wilderness of lost love and unmet expectations. Often, survivors are encouraged or even told to move on. But how can one just move on from love? I think moving forward is a better concept. The valley of death is not a place to build a house. It is a place to mark on the map, a place to learn from, and a place from which to launch out with new direction.

Though there is much disagreement about the personal nature and ministry of Jesus Christ, there is no doubt that He is an important historical figure. Few would deny He is one of the greatest teachers history recollects. Among the many powerful truths He taught, a statement He made about mourning has always been perplexing to me. If any man understood sorrow, it was the Man of Sorrows, but to hear Him speak certain words leaves one wondering if He had ever experienced the pain of grief.

While delivering His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in a section known as the Beatitudes, "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted." This statement contains both a paradox and a promise. Let's examine the paradox first.

I always thought this phrase to be somewhat perplexing. How can anyone say that the one who mourns is blessed? The word "blessed" is an interesting word. In fact, it could literally be translated as "happy"; happy is the one who mourns. This seems to only further complicate Jesus' statement. To understand what Jesus is driving at, we must understand the difference between grieving and mourning. Grief is the emotional internal pain felt as a result of a loss. Mourning is the external expression of that grief.

Notice Jesus did not say that the one who is grieving is happy, but the one who is mourning will be happy. Literally, Jesus was communicating the idea that happy is the one who grieves out loud! Happy is the one who expresses inward trouble outwardly. Jesus understood that physically, psychologically, and spiritually, mourning is directly related to the ability to move forward and that a failure to do so will inhibit progress.

The spiritual and the scientific do not need to be viewed as separate categories. Jesus' words are fully compatible with recent studies on the positive effects of expressing emotions. Research shows that those who allow themselves to express sorrow—whether through tears, ceremony, or other avenues of mourning—are less likely to experience negative effects on their health and more likely to adjust to their new normal and find meaning after loss.

I encourage you to allow yourself the right to acknowledge that you are not okay. Your life has forever changed. Acknowledge this often and openly. Allow the tears in your heart to become the tears on your cheek. Washington Irving beautifully said, "There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep loss, and of unspeakable love." It is fine to remove your "I'm okay" face and acknowledge that your heart has been broken. It is more than fine; it is necessary!

The paradox is followed by a promise: a promise of comfort. The paradox is "happy is the one who mourns." The promise is that the one who grieves out loud will be comforted. Could it be that Jesus desired us to understand that comfort comes through mourning? Is it possible that mourning is the bridge from the shadow lands to sunlit tomorrows? Comfort will not grow where mourning has not first prepared the ground. The happiness of a memory can often heal the heart, yet the sadness of that same thought calls the heart to continue its journey onward, forward, upward, and deeper within. Dr. Alan Wolfelt has recently suggested that one must say hello many times before one can ever say goodbye. Hello to a memory, hello to love, hello to loss. Mourning is saying hello; comfort is saying goodbye. When joined with the promise, the paradox makes perfect sense; "Blessed is the one who mourns for they shall be comforted."

Mourn your loss out loud. Do not succumb to the pressure to be okay when, in reality, you are not. Happy is the one who grieves out loud, for in mourning, they find comfort of body, mind, and soul. 

—Ben Webb, Guest Contributor

Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today toll-free at 1-888-789-2922.

Tags: Grief Support