Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grief

I'm not sure how to write about this, but I'm going to take a stab at it. This might be an uncharacteristically short post. :^)

My family just endured a loss... a loss of life. This is common. It happens every day, and the death of someone close happens to all of us multiple times throughout life... but all that really means is that most of us have this kind of wound. Not that it's not painful and horrible. Not that we should just "get over it". I think most of the people I count as friends would agree with that, and would try their level best to be loving and supportive --as much as they could-- to anyone they knew who had experienced such a loss. I know some incredibly kind and gentle-hearted people. I'm fortunate that way.

But what I'm most struck by now is how aware I suddenly am of the deep need I have of some vehicle for this... some need for a ritual to mourn not only this loss, but all the horrible things that have happened over the course of my short life, all the little deaths, all the breaches of trust. When a person dies, you have a funeral, and even that is not really enough. But what about all the other junk that happens? What about the times you gave everything you had and just got trashed by someone? Or cheated on? Or just forgotten?

We don't have a way to deal with grief corporately, really. I want to blame evangelical feel-good Christianity, or consumer culture, or the internet... but I actually just think it's plain old selfishness. We don't want to be brought down by someone else's pain. We don't know what to say. We don't want to be a burden. This is all perfectly understandable, but we need something. Something to publicly acknowledge that we hoped for better. Something to publicly acknowledge that we are really, really hurt and are probably going to act out of that. Something to remind us of the awful power we have over one another... the power to hurt and to heal. Something to hold us all accountable, to make us stop and think about how fragile we all are, and how delicately we really should treat folks... as much as possible. We need a placemarker that warns us to be gentle with ourselves as we recover, and that reminds others to be gentle, too.

I also think there's some stuff that just never heals. but that's probably a different blog post.

4 comments:

My Journey to Hope said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I've learned to just say "I'm sorry" after watching so many people suffer alone, while everyone said nothing because no one really knew what to say. So I try to just acknowledge the pain. That's what I want when I'm hurting.

It almost seems like we should be able to wear a mourning veil or something, so that everyone knows to be delicate, as you say. And I love your thoughts about people having the "power to hurt and to heal" and this great reminder, too- "We need a placemarker that warns us to be gentle with ourselves as we recover."

Thank you for sharing your heart, even when it's raw and bleeding. I pray that God would heal the wounds and give you peace.

-Michelle

Liz said...

When my Jewish grandfather died, as we entered the funeral home, each member of his immediate family was given a small piece of black cloth. We were instructed to rip it in two with our hands (no scissors) since modern folks no longer rend their garments. Then the funeral director pinned one of our torn halves on our chest. We were supposed to wear it every day while sitting Shiva, but my grandmother wore it every day until her mind became to frail to remember to pin it on in the morning.

These days you don't see people with the little bits of cloth pinned to their chest very often. But a few years after my dad passed, I ran into his oncologist. He had a small, ripped piece of black cloth pinned to his lapel. As soon as I saw it, I told him I was sorry for his loss. He told me about his grandmother and how she had just passed away after an amazing life. We chatted for several minutes about her and her life - much longer than we would have talked at any other chance encounter.

Why did we stop rending our garments?

Moff said...

Guys, thank you both for your beautiful and profound comments.

I have been thinking about veils and small pieces of ripped cloth.
I don't know when or why we stopped rending our garments... but maybe I need to rip up a black t-shirt or something. Seriously. I, we, need SOMETHING.

Mike said...

Go ahead and wear some black. More often than not, if I'm wearing black it's because I'm feeling some loss or another. I'm a big believer in showing on the outside how I'm feeling on the inside.

And I'm sorry for your loss, Amy. I'm with Michelle-- that's not quite the right thing to say, but way better than nothing. I hope when we say it, we mean that we're trying to share in your loss, somehow, in a small way.