present participle: mourning
To feel or show deep sorrow or regret for someone or their death. To feel regret or sadness about (the loss or disappearance of something).
Good Mourning. Have you ever read a more oxymoronic phrase?
When the ball dropped at midnight on January 1st, 2021 many were optimistic that this new year would wash the pain of 2020 away. The entire world came to a halt in March of 2020 as we faced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, a racial reckoning confronting systemic oppression against people of color, and more. Routines were thrown out the window, children had to adapt to remote learning, parents had to rethink work-life balance, and we all pivoted from vibrant joy-filled social gatherings to social distancing.
Many people thrived through it. Many people suffered through it.
Regardless of what category you fall into, I have one question for you: Have you processed it all? Have you celebrated your tenacity while giving yourself space to sit with grief?
You may be thinking, "I was blessed to not lose anyone close to me due to the corona virus so I'm exempt from this conversation." Are you sure?
In my years of service as a minister I've discovered something. Many people don't take the time to properly mourn because they don't feel their circumstances are worth grieving.
You can (and should) mourn life's transitions. It is possible (and likely necessary) to grieve the loss of total independence and autonomy while simultaneously navigating the joys of being a newlywed. You might be mourning the ending of a friendship you expected to be life-long, but only lasted a few short seasons. You can grieve as a new mom who misses her old body and ability to move freely, while, gushing over your beautiful baby. You can mourn the loss of privacy while celebrating a meteoric rise to platforms that keep you in the public eye. You can mourn the loss of a routine that supported mental wellness, while reveling in the tenacity you displayed by pivoting so well. You can experience moments of joy while working through grief. Perhaps the presence of joy-filled moments cause some to question whether or not their grief is valid.
The key here is taking time to process it all.
Mourning is as necessary as rain and cloudy skies. Just because the word connotes melancholy doesn't mean it's bad or only applicable in the death of a loved one.
To mourn is to recognize the value of something we miss deeply. To mourn is to give space to properly process regret, and move forward with peace. To mourn is to celebrate what once was, while transitioning into what will be - whether we are stumbling or gracefully walking from season to season.
I came to understand this truth more intimately as my last living grandparent took his final breaths on January 2nd of this year. I was already giving space to grieving a year that was tumultuous, joy-filled, and stretching for me. In the midst of exhaling the reality of this prolonged new normal (life as we’ve come to know it in a pandemic), I was faced with deep sadness over the end of an era and the loss of the familiar. I sobbed knowing I’d never see him again on this side of eternity, and in another moment laughed hysterically at my one year old’s attempts to be a ballerina - the same child I had hoped to bring to Jamaica to meet him prior to Corona's invasion on our lives. I powered through work assignments and client meetings some days, while giving myself permission to postpone meetings and shift deadlines on others. While the world kept moving on for everyone else, I had to honor the fact that my world required pause.
It is good to mourn. It is good to take time to sit with your feelings and process them so that they don't sit in your subconscious. When we don't give ourselves grace in this area of our lives, it creeps into others. Then, when faced with a hurdle we can normally easily overcome that all of a sudden stops us in our tracks (and leaves us in a debilitating funk), we wonder - why? Why can't I move from this space? The answer lies in avoidance. We can only process what we confront.
Here are three things I’ve done to help me cope with grief. I hope they prove helpful for you.
Ride the wave. Have you ever stood in the sea and been hit by a strong wave? It’ll knock you off your feet no matter how determined you are. I think grief is similar. Thankfully, it isn’t incessant. It comes in waves. When those waves roll, it may be best to just ride with it instead of resist it. Cry, be silent, binge watch Netflix, whatever makes sense for you - no judgment.
Honor the season. This was a paradigm shift for me. I spent much of my life burying emotions so I could continue to function at a high level (assuming that’s what was expected of me), ignoring the health of my heart in the process. Can you relate? Giving space to grief is to display honor towards that which was beloved, no matter whether a person, a pet, or a season of life. That may look like saying no, taking time off from work, or opting for more self-care. You get to choose the pace of your journey.
Weep. Then wipe your face. The bible tells us in John 11:35 that Jesus wept. He took time to mourn the loss of one who he loved deeply. Jesus, who was equally human and divine modeled the complexities of grief for us in this instance. Surely, Jesus knew he could (and would) raise Lazarus from the dead. But in that moment, His friend was gone. He witnessed the tears of Mary, Martha, and their community as they mourned. Jesus cried. He gave space for his feelings to flow. Then, He shifted His focus back to His Father's business and performed one of the greatest miracles ever witnessed. Grief looks different for everyone. It has no timetable, isn't a linear process, and can be consuming. However, we all get to choose how and when we "wipe our face," or make the decision to live through it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re crawling or walking head held high. What does matter is that you grab hold of the breath still active in your body and continue to LIVE .
“Blessed are those who mourn. They will be comforted.” - Matthew 5:4
May you feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit as you mourn and process whatever causes your soul to lament. May you give yourself permission to pause in a world so driven by movement and busyness. May you give yourself grace as you ride the waves, the ebbs and flows of life. I know I will.
“Grief is a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign a weakness, nor a lack of faith.
It is the price of love.”
I love you and I'm rooting for you,