The day before my grandmother died, I showed up at softball practice, glove in hand. It was March after all, and we were in the middle of a very important season. I remember feeling like I was in a wind tunnel, the noises and objects around me blurry and seemingly far off. I don’t remember much else, just the heavy hand of my coach, shaking me gently, telling me, “Hailey, you need to go, you need to go be with your grandmother.”
So that’s what I did.
Sitting here, years later, I am able to see the enormity of my grief at that time. Her death had been anticipated, prepared for even, yet I felt like it was a train moving at lightning speed, down a track with no end in sight.
At 63, she was too young, too good, and just too important to me to die.
Oh, how I wish I felt the freedom to yell and scream at this injustice.
Have you experienced grief similar to mine?
Let me ask another question. Has your grief ever been downplayed, or perhaps even stolen from you? Well-meaning funeral attendees may have said something to you such as, “Well, she’s in a better place. You will see her again one day.”
“I don’t care that she’s in a better place!! I want her here, with me!” This is what my sixteen-year-old self wanted to scream.
What if we didn’t ignore our pain, or the pain and grief of those around us?
I believe we could learn something from the Jewish practice of Shiva. Upon hearing the news of the death of a loved one, they cry out and tear the clothing from their body. This practice is called “Keriah.”
“The rending of garments is an opportunity for psychological relief. It allows the mourner to give vent to his pent-up anguish by means of controlled, religiously sanctioned act of destruction. “
Jewish tradition provides a framework to channel and express our grief over the loss of a loved one, from the stupefying grief of Aninut, to the seclusion, break from routine, and receiving of condolence of the Shivah, to the subsequent resumption of everyday life whilst continuing certain mourning rituals during the Sheloshim and the First Year.
Here’s our problem: today’s society is both uncomfortable and too “busy” to address such pain and grief. We run from it. We can easily find distractions. We unintentionally dismiss others pain and heartache. Hear me – this is not just a “worldly issue,” this is a Christian issue.
As someone who sits closely with individuals in grief, I can tell you how vast and mysterious grief can be. I’m finding that one of the most precious gifts I can give to my clients is to simply acknowledge their pain. To sit with them in the “already and not yet.” To do so, I work towards fostering an environment where they feel safe enough to surrender and be ok with feeling weak. I suppose this acts as a “mini” shiva for those who are in a season of grief and loss.
One other thought for the day – God isn’t surprised by our grief; in fact, He has come to expect it. But don’t think for a second that He has become numb to it. Remember, He sent His one and only Son to be the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He’s no stranger to grief.