"Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.” -Longfellow.
Most of us don't get taught how to grieve. Maybe it's not something that can be taught; maybe it's something you have to go through to really get. But hearing someone else's story can go a long way.
Author/speaker Brooke Mardell nearly lost her husband Jason to a heart attack right here on campus at Biola a few years ago, and she returned here to talk to us about what grief is like and what she learned.
Most importantly, grief is real life; there is no Biblical guarantee that we will avoid grief (in fact, we seem to be promised the exact opposite).
And if we don't talk about it before it touches our lives (because it will), it can push us deep into ourselves, and cause us to put on fake smiles and Christian "happy talk." And because we've never talked about it, when it happens it feels strange and abnormal and causes us to question God's goodness and trustworthiness and even His existence...questions we might be afraid to say out loud at a place like Biola.
But for Mardell, despite her fear, "I wasn't going to hear the answers until I was willing to ask the questions."
"In some ways, there's no 'getting over' griefs that come into your life," says Mardell. In some things, grief is for a lifetime; loss is real. As Anne Lamott said, "It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
But can good that comes out of grief? For Mardell, grief has been a chance to see herself and God differently, in a more honest and genuine way. Grief is a "massive rainstorm that comes and washes away the pretense of who we are, and maybe the pretense of who we think God is."
She also offers practical wisdom about allowing for mystery and unanswerable questions and rawness, about how to avoid unhelpful advice and quick fixes, how to use the lament Psalms to turn complaint to adoration, and how to be a safe person for others who are grieving, whether believers or unbelievers.
Grief will indeed find all of us...here's 26 minutes of wisdom on how to live with it.