As I’ve been creating (and recreating) resources, and as I’ve been listening to you all share what you’ve been up to, I’ve been struck by something I couldn’t quite name until I was part of a collegial conversation – one of my colleagues said we were currently ‘united in our grief’. Grief for what we have temporarily lost, grief for the unknown, grief perhaps for our feeling of helplessness.
A medical definition of grief is:
‘The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair.’
So grief is a natural process in our lives, but there is an end to the intensity of that grief.
Jesus knew grief. A good example is the story of Lazarus from John 11:
32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35Jesus began to weep.
Jesus wept with grief about the loss of his friend. But there was an end to it. We say that God weeps as we weep, that God feels the pain as we feel it, that God grieves with us. Matthew 5 clearly states in the Beatitudes that those who grieve will be comforted, they will not be ignored or passed over.
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I can only speak for myself not you, but my experiences of grief have been at first a terrible physical pain which slowly becomes an ache and then something like a gap that never quite leaves me. The pain, despite being terrible at first, does go but the memory of it seems to linger. It isn’t a bad linger, it’s the memory of someone I loved but who has passed away, and the gap or space is the reminder. But that may not be your experience at all.
Some of us may be grieving not being able to see grandchildren, some not being able to see parents. Some of us will be missing walking with friends, enjoying the public parks, or even going shopping to the centres. The initial pain of the grief will pass, and it will become an ache, but let’s hope this time teaches us lessons for the future – that we will identify what is really important in life for us, for our neighbours, for the world. Let’s hope the ache of this grief doesn’t leave us but serves as a reminder of what we took for granted for so long, and how across the world we are now united in our grief. Although some people around the world are way more vulnerable to this virus, and although some of us have access to way better medical care, there is no one in this world who remains untouched.
do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.