Weeping With those Who Weep
Mourning with those who are sad is not one of our favorite things to do. We get impatient with the spouse still mourning the loss of her husband five years after his death. We want to say, “Get over it. It’s been five years. It’s time to get on with your life.” A little self-reflection would tell us that it is arrogant of us to think we can place limits on another’s grief.
Just yesterday, I passed by the graveyard of my late wife, Kathleen. Seemingly, out of the blue, I felt this overwhelming sense of loss. Kathleen was in the car with me. I saw her face; felt her presence. I have lone since passed the stage when I grieve for her daily but just when I least expect it, my heart still skips a beat. Tears come into my eyes and I find myself mourning the loss of my wife. Someone might say, Hank, It was two and a half years ago. I say, So what? When we mourn, we mourn. Does our sense of loss disappear after the funeral ceremony? In one year? Five years? What nonsense to act as though there is some artificial period of mourning that is “appropriate.”
I flashed on the mourning that is part of the life of our kids at the Children’s Village. Do they have less right to mourn the loss of their parents, the break-up of their family just because it all happened a few years back? Who appointed us as the timekeepers for a child’s grief?
And if their sorrow is expressed in their sometimes-aggressive behavior rather than by tears, may we at least try to walk in their shoes before we condemn and punish them. These are children who have had to endure painful rejection on the part of those who were supposed to take care of them. Of course they are sad. They need time and compassion to heal those wounds. We owe them that.
My own daughter lost a close friend recently who was part of her life, part of her history. Just because the young man who died was not a parent or family member, is it not okay for her to be deeply saddened by her loss? Do we say, “get over it” as though it were that simple?
One of the cruelest things we can say to people in mourning is the glib phrase “Time heals all wounds.” Does it really? Those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one may disagree. Recovering from a deep loss cannot be neatly calculated into hours or week or years. Yes, healing takes time but it takes more than that. We are all individuals and we grieve at our own pace. It behooves all of us to be sensitive to the healing time line of others. We don’t really need to feel that we have to “cheer up” those who mourn. We will do much better to weep with those who weep, to take their hands in ours and say, “I’m really sorry.”