An Invitation to Grieve

Jesus wept.
John 11:35

Most Friday mornings, I can be found grocery shopping at a nearby Kroger. The floral department is within view of the entrance, and, being the plant lover I am, I stroll by the display slowly, enjoying the beautiful sight. I’ll also admit I usually check the clearance table to see if there are any slightly bedraggled houseplants that need a home.

Sadly, the sight that greeted me the two Fridays preceding Mother’s Day didn’t elicit the usual delight. Instead, the cheerful array of balloons, cards, and bouquets brought me to tears both weeks, even though I prepared myself for the onslaught of emotions the second week. I knew Mom would love anything and everything I picked out for her. I could imagine her smile and expressions of gratitude.

But I wouldn’t be picking out anything for Mom with eager anticipation, and she wouldn’t be joyfully receiving my gifts because she went to be with the Lord a week before Mother’s Day 2021, and I would be spending my third Mother’s Day without her. I sniffled my way up and down the first two aisles, finally reining in my tears so I could see my shopping list, but the sense of sadness lingered even after I returned home.

I didn’t sleep well the night before the fateful holiday. I dreaded facing another Mother’s Day without my best friend, lifelong cheerleader, and prayer warrior, and my 92-year-old father had experienced an alarming health incident the day before. My troubled mind worked overtime as I tossed and turned.

And then Sunday morning came, and the dam broke. I could no longer hold back the flood, nor did I even try to. I stood in the shower and sobbed, my tears flowing as fast as the water from the showerhead. I don’t know how many minutes passed before the torrent subsided, but it did, leaving me both spent and yet somehow comforted.

As Christians, we grieve with hope, but too often, we won’t allow ourselves to mourn fully and deeply the losses that send pieces of our hearts into graves along with our loved ones. We move quickly to the assurances:

  • To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
  • Death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).
  • Jesus is preparing a place for us and will return to take us to be with Him (John 14:2-3).
  • We’ll spend eternity together in the presence of God, where there will be no more pain, mourning, tears, or death (Revelation 21:1-4).

Don’t get me wrong. I cherish those promises and ones like them. I frequently remind myself of them as I look forward to my heavenly Home and the glorious reunions that await. But I also need to permit myself to express the sorrow of losing loved ones without fear of disparaging my faith. Even though death’s sting is not permanent, it is still powerful and painful.

When Mom died, a friend referred to me as a “grief veteran.” Having been widowed at age 38, I know death is final in this life. The hand I long to hold and the voice I long to hear are lost to me for now. Likewise, Mom and I won’t share any more afternoons filled with haircut appointments and Starbucks treats or sit side-by-side in church on Sunday mornings. No, our departed loved ones won’t return to us. One day we will go to them, but for now, the separation hurts, and it’s ok to say so whether the loss occurred years ago or more recently.

Scripture describes our perfect Savior as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). If we ever doubt we have permission to grieve, we have only to look to Jesus. He experienced what it’s like to walk through this sin-scarred world. Even though He knew He would defeat death and not one of those entrusted to Him would be lost, Jesus wept because death was never part of God’s good plan. It stings. It always will this side of heaven.

A recent conversation with my pastor regarding our propensity to rush to the good news of Christ’s victory over death without allowing ourselves or others to grieve reminded me of my daughter Jessie’s comment as we stood by Mom’s grave two years ago. After watching Mom endure horrible pain the last ten days of her life, I said I was thankful she wasn’t suffering anymore. Jessie replied, “That’s true, but don’t miss out on the mourning, Mom.”

Dear reader, if you’ve lost someone you cherished, I, too, say, “Don’t miss out on the mourning.” Take your sorrow to the Lord, the compassionate One who understands. He will meet us in our grief.

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