We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. I Thess. 4:13
Anyone who has said goodbye to a parent, a child, or a sibling in death, can stop grieving too soon. Perhaps the pain is too frightening. It appears as an abyss of unfathomable depths. Someone said to me recently, “If I start crying, I won’t be able to stop.” This is usually how true grief feels. It overwhelms us with its power.
Sometimes, those who have stuffed their grief seem ready to break with the least provocation. Either erupting into anger or tears, emotions are ever near the surface. Or, the one who represses grief as a way of life has an unnatural calm. Stoicism marks their demeanor and nothing seems to stir up emotion. They don’t express joy or pain and have a lifetime of things to process emotionally. Yet, they may never do it.
We are meant to be channels through which the Spirit of God can flow in – and out – without restriction. When we are filled with an ocean of stagnant tears, the flow is interrupted. The one that appears stingy with love today may, in fact, be someone who is trapped in unfinished grief.
I’ve known parents who lost a child and then proceeded to make his old bedroom a memorial. No one is allowed to touch anything inside and the door stays closed. It’s as if they trick themselves into believing that their child will come back and all will be as it used to be. They may have no one with whom to share their tears. They’ve cried alone for as long as they could endure the loneliness, then decided to get it together by putting their grief behind them. This is the tragic outcome of a church that has modeled the lie that to be spiritually mature is the same as appearing strong.
Grief should not paralyze God’s child, nor should grieving be done alone. Paul didn’t say that Christians don’t grieve, he said they don’t grieve without hope. Some think that to express tears is weakness. Far from it. It is an act of courage and faith in a God who is trustworthy inspite of unanswered questions. It takes great faith to clutch the hand of the One who could have prevented our tragic losses but, in His great providence, did not.
In the absence of being taught how to grieve, I want to thank you, Jesus, for teaching me. Amen