Good Grief

Today’s scripture: Psalm 88 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Lynnette Pullen):

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by grief that you cry in front of someone and then shamefully apologize, while frantically trying to clear the tears from your eyes? If you haven’t done it, I bet you’ve at least seen it happen. Why do we apologize? Why do we feel the need to stifle or hide expressions of grief? I mean, we don’t smile and then smother it saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry about that!” In our culture, somehow, at some point, it became socially inappropriate to express grief. Think of it, we try to keep our children from crying when they can’t get what they want. We never really say, “You’re right, honey. It’s really sad that Sally has to go home now. It’s ok to take a moment and cry about that.” We say, “It’s alright. You can see her next Saturday. Don’t cry. Let’s go play with our toys.” From the beginning, we are constantly given messages that to cry or to express grief is bad or wrong. Men are called “wimps” if they cry, and women are seen as weak and out of control. However, if one maintains a stable balance of “pleasant but not overly happy or terribly sad” then one is considered “emotionally healthy.” Really? Does that seem healthy to you? Sounds like a character out of the movie The Stepford Wives, where women were “altered” to be pleasant zombie-like idiots for the benefit of the insecure husbands.

Sometimes things in life really hurt us. That pain needs to be acknowledged and expressed. Let me be clear, I am not talking about medical conditions which cause us to feel excessive and consistent sadness and which require medications to correct. That is a completely separate issue. I’m referring to situational traumatic events or to loss that elicits appropriate emotions of grief. Just like the little child that missed her friend, we go eagerly searching for something to numb the pain, something that will make us feel better again or at least distract us. Ever eat when you’re not hungry? Shop when you don’t need anything? Or do you keep yourself busy with meaningless activities? Let’s face it; most of us have at one point or another. Grief is unpleasant, but it is not bad. It’s part of being human. While I don’t think it’s very healthy to get stuck in a cycle of sadness without resolution, the normal cycle of grief is part of how we come to grips with loss and pain. When you find yourself rummaging through the fridge (knowing that you are not really hungry) or you have submersed yourself in work (leaving little time for a real life), I challenge you to ask yourself, “What am I really feeling?” What are you really hungry for? What are you afraid to face? What are you really searching for at Macy’s? (I doubt if they have a new childhood for sale).  Allow yourself the time you need to grieve whatever it is that hurts you. Go through the stages at the pace that seems natural to you. Allow the tears to fall. After all, isn’t that what they’re made for? Read Psalms 88 and know that you are not alone in that process.

I really appreciate that Psalm 88 was filled with expressions of sadness and did not end on a good note. To me, that signifies that whatever the psalmist was dealing with was not resolved. He allowed himself to be vulnerable enough to express that to God. He didn’t bother with trying to fill that void. He just let his gaping wound be known to God. What gaping wound are you trying to fill?

Prayer for the day: God, thank you for the gift of tears. Somehow, it seems to help me wash away what time cannot. Help me to have the insight and courage to go through the stages of grief. Help me not to use other avenues to avoid acknowledging and experiencing my true feelings. Walk with me as I navigate this journey. Lead me and I will follow. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.