Grieving and mourning losses is not a once-and-done act. It is a process that takes twists and turns over time. We experience this when we feel fresh grief on a deceased loved one’s birthday. Or when we notice an empty place at the table at a holiday dinner. We have all known people whose mourning re-opens fully on the anniversary of a loved one’s death.
When I was a little girl, I wondered why my grandmother always wore black. As I grew up, I learned that her black attire was a reminder that she was mourning the death of my grandfather. She wore black for years, and in that way, made mourning a part of her life. We may think that this was not a healthy behavior for her. But perhaps it was more real than just moving on with life and putting her husband’s death out of her mind. Remembering every day when she dressed was her way of mourning a profound loss.
Grief and mourning don’t just show up for us after a tragedy and then instantly go away after the tragedy is over. There are some tragedies, in fact, that are never over, and grief and mourning are a part of our lives every day, as we mourn losses of all kinds. It helps to expect to grieve at the loss of a job, or a retirement, or through the reality of a chronic illness, or after moving away from friends. It helps to accept the fact that we all grieve our losses, and that we do it again and again. But underneath our grief is an everlasting hope that gives us strength through it all.
. . . We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
When we realize and accept mourning as a very real part of our lives, we will learn to mourn well and grieve appropriately. I love this simple prayer from The High Calling:
Lord, teach me to grieve, but with hope. Help me to mourn in the mysterious joy of your presence. Amen.