When a young person experiences a significant loss, they rarely know how to handle the pain, so many of them run away from it or around it as quickly as they can. In our culture, grief is seen as a temporary weakness. It’s something we must tolerate quickly, no matter the severity of the loss. It’s hoped to be a short period of crying and depression that is to be endured. For some, it’s even taboo. It’s a bit like the stomach flu. Most people feel bad for you but don’t really want to hear all about it or be near you. We would all prefer to avoid it altogether, but that’s so unhealthy.
By avoiding grief, we avoid healing. We don’t deal with these very important things, so we simply cover up wounds. And in time we get infections. Then we cover those up and ignore them. In time, we are a mess, and we wonder why. For some, it stunts their personal growth.
People who experience loss without mourning are stuck in the shallows. They are unwilling to go below the surface of life. They are “puddle-jumpers,” splashing about in the rain, ignoring the storms in their lives (past or present) and in the peoples’ lives around them. They “be-bop” from one fun thing to the next, without examining the matters of the heart that are disturbing or sorrowful.
In his most famous sermon, the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) While I am not a biblical scholar, I believe it is fair to deduce that those who do not mourn will not be comforted. They will live without deep peace because they are living in the shallows. Simon Tugwell wrote in his book The Beatitudes, “There can be no true rejoicing until we have stopped running away from mourning.”
The truth is that the process of grief is good for the heart. It is an essential part of what makes us truly human. It deepens our character. It makes us more able to connect deeply with others. It opens us up to God and His healing power. It makes us appreciate the relief that follows the grief. It makes us stronger and yet more loving.
Grief is not something that I wish upon anyone, for it always involves sorrow and pain. But it is a necessary and good process as we live in this fallen world. By embracing the process of grief, we will grow upward and onward in our faith and will live richer lives. Grief is good for the heart, and the sooner we embrace that, the sooner we will be living well. And we are not meant to live in deep despair for long (click here for related article).
When a child suffers the loss of a pet, the betrayal of a friend, or the death of a grandparent, adults need to step in and help them deal with the loss. There are plenty of resources out there to help you have a more productive conversation (here’s one www.hns.org). The world will tell them to get over it too quickly. We need to help them process it better.