This past month, we had a "Time to Mourn", as we remembered our dear sister now in heaven with our Lord. She was only 32, so it has hit us all hard. We spent time talking about grief, we spent time telling stories about her, and we spent time both praying for her family and time mourning and saying good-bye. Here are my notes on grieving from that evening, (Psychologist that I am, I have some acquaintance with grief! Sometimes I think that all therapy work is grief work of one sort or another.), as well as the handout of Scriptures and Resources I gave to our students.
1.Wisdom from Ecclesiastes: "It is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting, because death is the end of all men, and the wise take it to heart."
Grieving and mourning are wise actions for us-humans to do. They are better for us than partying and feasting. We all have a birthday and we all have a deathday, every year our deathday rolls past and we do not know it, but the Word tells us that we are wise to consider this and to live --> remembering that we will someday die. What we are doing here tonight is WISE!
2. In light of the fact of the reality of death, how do we relate to other people? “Love ‘em while they are warm!” Ask: "Who can I love right now? Who can I forgive right now that is still alive?" Death is so final and dead bodies are so cold.
3. Consider your life decisions as enlightened by the fierce illumination that death brings to our lives: what really matters? In light of death, in what do I want to invest? On my deathbed: for what will I wish? What will I wish that I had done? (Ignatius of Loyola was the person who said that these questions help us to clarify our discernment in decision-making.)
4. But understand that even when we are in the depths of grieving, we are not always sad. Grief comes in waves (kindof like the stomach flu), and there are times when we don't feel as bad as other times. Denial is a gift. We can’t live in the intensity of immediate grief all the time. Grief is “work”! Thank God we can forget, can think of and feel something else. Thank God that we don’t have full and constant memory of all our grief and sadnesses! It is ok to still rejoice in the joyful things, enjoy the beautiful things, laugh at the funny things – in fact, grief often gives us free and clear access to the truly “good” experiences! Grief helps us perceive what is really true, really good, really beautiful.
5. Grieving is a process with a beginning, a middle and an end. We can purposefully work through this healing process by saying ‘good-bye’ to both the things we will miss, and the things we won’t miss. As time passes, we will naturally live and experience things that we can’t share with our beloved dead friend, and this means that we will “move on”. This is okay and normal. We will catch up on the other side of our life in heaven.
The process of grieving means that we tell the truth about what we have lost and what we will miss. We say ‘good-bye’. As we move through this process, it will allow us to remember with sadness, but not with gut-wrenching pain. We will be able to re-invest our lives and our love and to find a ‘new normal’, which will honor the goodness of the loving friendship we have had with our friend or loved one.
6. In all of this, contemplate and remember the comfort of the cross and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. He knows this human experience and is with us through it and will receive us on the other side of death. Our God is not a god who is distant from us. Bonhoeffer points out that we have a ‘suffering God’.
Consider John 11: Jesus has just said that He is the resurrection and the life, and yet, when He stands at the tomb of His dear friend Lazarus, one whom He loved, even though He knows that He will raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus weeps! This is the human response to the death of a loved one, and Jesus mournedLazarus' death. It is good and normal to mourn. Only those who mourn may be comforted.
7. We believe that God is everywhere present, yet in times of grief we often find it difficult to perceive Him. Where did you find Him in this experience with your friend who died? (In others' love and care? In your own concern for her? In prayer? Scripture? Hugs? In your friend’s own words and witness?)
Faith is steadily and stubbornly continuing to journey with God IN THE DARK when we don’t see Him. Walking by faith is not 'sight'. Faith means that we trust that He sees us even when we can’t see Him.
Where are you called to have faith regarding this grief experience?
8. I suggest that you continue ‘working through’ grief by including your friend’s name and friendship in your conversations and consider doing something in her memory. (Discuss possibilities.)
9. Understand that:
We grieve for her and for her family.
We grieve for us, for our experience of missing her, and we grieve for the lost parts of ourselves that she
carried, and that she shared and that she mirrored back to us.
We grieve for ourselves in our mortality and for the mortality of those we love.
For some of you, this is the first person that you have know personally that has died. And this is a fundamental and shocking experience of the world. The sky has cracked and will never be whole again. We too will die. The experiential reality of this is often shattering.
The significance of the resurrection becomes personal here.
Let's spend some time in prayer here together....
(And here's the handout:)
“A Time to Mourn”
Matt. 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
Eccl. 7:1-4 “1 A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
3 Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”
Eccl. 3:1-8 “1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
Isaiah 57:1-2 “1 The righteous perish,
and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
2 Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.”
I Thess. 4:13-18 “13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed
about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Rev. 21:3-5 “3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Ps. 90:12 “Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Sittser – A Grace Disguised: How the soul grows through loss
Kreeft – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven but Never Dreamed of Asking
Musgrave & McGettigan – Spiritual & Psychological Aspects of Illness
Robin Ryan – God and the Mystery of Human Suffering: A Theological Conversation
C.S. Lewis – A Severe Mercy
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person…through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve – even in pain – the authentic relationship. Further more the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer