I have been thinking about grieving, especially when it concerns death. This isn’t a normal subject for my old communities. I don’t know why, we just didn’t talk about it much, and if we did, it was very ethereal and fluffy. But I now live and work with people who know death in a much closer and familiar way. They are affected greatly when someone close to them dies, no matter how old or how long that they have been sick.
This has had a profound affect on me as well, as a counselor as well as trying to be more human. I have sat with many people this year as they grieved the loss of someone who died many years ago. I have sat with a few who grieved children and spouses who died this year. Some of what I said or didn’t say was helpful, much was not. I have tried to listen and give space for their experience, I have tried to promote grieving and say how important it is. But just because I am a counselor doesn’t mean I am a good listener. I have to work at it. And it definitely doesn’t mean I have anything profound to say when I am sitting across someone who is grieving.
I just finished “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis, about the death of his wife. He writes about how many people say trite things to him, how many others avoid him altogether, not knowing what to say. He says he hates it all, all the advice he gets, all the looks he gets, all the pity, all the misunderstanding, all the work he has to do to make sure someone else feels okay. I have never lost someone so close like this, and I can’t imagine how hard it would be, even without having to deal with everyone else.
But Lewis hates the loneliness as well. He says that a sad person will look for anything to distract them from their grieving. But a lonely person will live in their suffering, more willing to live in the memories of what they lost than the real world. So why grieve? As a counselor I will tell you many reasons, how grieving is moving toward the pain and acknowledging it, while everything else is a failure to deal with it, and there is no healing without reconciliation. But it gets much trickier when you are in the midst of it. I know how to grieve when I feel safety in other areas of my life. I don’t know how to grieve when even God seems silent.