The Rev. Chris Bowhay shared a personal story yesterday of a clergy friend, Dixie, who taught him about grieving. In grieving, there are no clinical signs that we can measure like a heart rate, blood level or broken bone. Instead of being in the realm of the literal, grieving is in the realm of the poet. In our culture we expect people to grieve for about a two-week period, like they were away on a vacation, and then to return to their normal routine, almost as if nothing happened.
When we lose someone, there is always 1-1/2 years of grief. Sometimes there is more, but never less. When someone we love is diagnosed with a grave disease, the first stage we go through is one of numbness and shock as we prepare for the loss. Second, there is the service itself where family and friends gather in a rush of activity often saying words that are of no consolation like, “She’s better off now,” or “At least her suffering is over.”
The third stage of grieving starts after the service when we realize that our loved one is really gone. It is when real grief begins with the hollowness of an empty room or an unanswered conversation.
Throughout this stage, the sorrow seems to lessen as time goes on, but then we have a day where the sadness again grips us with a vicious force. We spend the next year wanting to feel alive again, but we are plunged into despair when we are reminded by a birthday, anniversary or a favorite, shared song on the radio.
This period of grief lasts at least the annual cycle of the calendar, but may go on longer if it is not dealt with in a healthy way. We need someone who will listen to our unedited grieving without judgment or condemnation.
The 1-1/2 years serve another purpose: we gradually become willing to let that person go back to God.
Chris tells us that Dixie died a few years back. He was remembered as a very analytical military hero and logical engineer, but also as a great pastor who would weep uncontrollably at things of beauty.
A mutual friend called Chris to tell him of a vision he had during his grieving period. In his vision, he saw Dixie weeping as though he had never cried before. They realized that Dixie was weeping at the beauty of seeing the face of God.
As we remember our loved ones, we must not rush our grief, but instead be gradually willing to let that person go back to God.
Blessings, my friend,
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