I have lost two wives. I have recently lost my two best friends, both in their early sixties. As a pastor, I have conducted literally hundreds of funerals. One would think I hold a Ph.D. in grieving and being heartbroken. I should be an expert, right? Wrong! There not only is no such thing, but grieving always arrives fresh and ripe and robust and ready to knock us to the ground. Grief never ever loses its power. Its clout is incessant and eternal. No matter when or where or whom it chooses, it can snap a heart in two in a moment’s notice, on a whim, or out of nowhere.
Our lives are a litany of loss, and it seems logical to think we would become better and better at it. We never do. When we strive to control it, it breaks loose and romps through the streets of our soul like a Pamplona bull. If we feel it has moved on like a quirky gypsy, think again, it will just put up its tent in another sacred backyard spot on our heart. Just when we declare ourselves to have moved on, our grief will move right back in, stick outs its tongue, and wag its finger at us for bad human behavior.
The power of grief is enormous. It is a grand canyon of higher and lower education of the human spirit. It reminds us of our complete insignificance, while telling tales of how each of us will never be forgotten. As our hearts lay shattered upon the floor, we will ironically notice there is a missing piece, and we will begin to search high and low for this remnant of our history. We will finally understand fully just how much a single moment of Life matters. As we cry buckets and barrels of tears, and fear they will never cease to flow, we strangely feel reborn, baptized like the Wicked Witch of the West, and freed of the task of ever being nasty again.
Grief is our tutor and our mentor. It is that good friend who will tell us the bald and bare naked truth. It is the frame to our life’s painting, giving it perspective and depth and brightness, and even worthy of being museum hung. Grief breaks the human heart and readies it to receive the great gifts of compassion and concern and care, and the miracle that is remembrance. Grief will kneel down and sweep up all the pieces of the heart, and begin the painstaking process of gluing all the bits back together, simply by doing it day after day after day until the work is done.
How do we heal from grief? Grief is its own healer. It is a process, a journey, a course. We must ACCEPT IT. There is no way to go around or over grieving. There is only the messy slog through its swampy terrain. Yes, there are snakes and crocs and mosquitos the size of Utah. Yes, it can ruin any day at any time and explode a moment of joy into one of enormous sadness. It is just that moody and it plays dirty. It simply will not leave us alone, and will tease us and poke and prod us into submission, like an older sibling tickling our feet.
We are not meant to like grieving, nor relish the experience of having our hearts broken, but we must maturely receive and learn the many lessons from those experiences. Pay attention. Notice every word it has to say. The Word of God is spoken flueantly by grief. Listen up. Listen hard. Hear the gospel truth which will nail your heart to higher ground.
If we are smart, or wise, or even both, we will choose to EMBRACE grieving, like the Jew who invites the grief in to their lives in order not to waste so much time trying to run away from a much faster runner. By embrace, I do not mean enjoy. I mean to love your grieving. It is not your enemy, and even if it were, we have been taught to love that too. Our grieving will tell us again of our hopes and dreams and priorities, while reminding us of who and what matters, and how to find purpose and point in the mayhem of our days. Grief, more than anything else, will encourage and enable us to grow up and change and mature. Grief enables us to become the creatures God created us to be – wonderfully and wildly human.
Lastly, GIVE IT TIME AND IT WILL HEAL ON ITS OWN … often when you least expect it …usually when you have given up completely and surrendered. But, remember, you will bear scars, the infection may reoccur, and relapse is normal and necessary and a major aspect of all true healing. Relapses are not signs of weakness or fragility, but just God whispering to us to get back on our knees for a bit, reconnect our souls to the Spirit, and cease from trying to play God once again.
There is no possible way to live without grieving, nor without having your heart broken. It is a requirement of the human condition, and a necessity of maturation. Most of all it is the primary way humans learn to be human, and being human is the will of God, for God knows we spend a lifetime trying to be everything but human. God cherishes and adores us and created us human so that we might know and witness and believe in the magic and mystery and miracle of being alive. It is a big price to pay for admission to this game of life, but it is indeed the one thing which guarantees it will all be worth it – in the end.
Trying to teach or even say anything about grieving or the breaking of the human heart, feels as futile as trying to talk to a teen about sex – which is the spiritual equivalent of giving a fish a bath. There is really no need to pontificate much, as Life teaches the course, and sadly but sanely, yes sacredly, there will be many courses offered, and fortunately there are no grades. You get an “A” just for showing up. Being present is the only course requirement. No matter what, you are guaranteed to pass, as the teacher knows full well you did your best.