Years ago when my father died suddenly of a heart attack, his loss was unexpected and enormous, and I felt as if my entire world had shifted on its axis. I remember wondering, how can everyone and everything else go on as normal? How could the sky still be clear and cloudless? How could students on campus continue going to class as if nothing had happened?
Since then I’ve learned about the Chinese custom of observing a period of mourning after the death of a family member. The length of time and specific practices seem to vary according to one’s position in the family and other considerations. But I understand a period of mourning as one way to make space for grieving. Instead of rushing around visiting or filling up the empty space, a period of mourning acknowledges and honours the loss. It signals that life has been forever changed, if not for the world at large, then for those who have been affected most deeply.
So in deep grief and deep gratitude, I am observing a period of mourning for my husband, now safely home with God, February 19, 2022. I think about our life together. I pray. I cry. I journal. I sort through things and remember. I listen to his collection of ’80s music. I go for a walk most days, often with a family member or friend. I talk with one or more of my sisters every day. I am often on the phone with others too and have started responding a few at a time to the many Facebook and Twitter messages, blog comments, cards, and emails. Even when people say “no reply necessary,” it’s a comfort for me to respond, to connect with others who care, and who share my grief.
During this time, I am also following through with my course on Sabbath as Gary encouraged me to do, although the course started a week later than originally planned. This Sunday I’ll be on Zoom speaking for my congregation. But besides those things and this blog, I’ve either postponed or let my other writing and speaking go during this time.
When people ask to meet for coffee, I suggest we go for a walk outdoors instead, or get together after Easter when my period of mourning will be over. When people ask if I will _______________, I say I can’t even think about that until after Easter. Not that I will suddenly be done by Easter with remembering and praying and doing all the precious work of grieving. But right now I’m honouring the loss and deliberately leaving room to mourn.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: At the start of my class last week, I shared some of my grief and gratitude since many of the class members had been praying for my husband and me over the last year. I also acknowledged, “I realize that you may also be coming with your own losses and grief, with your own joys. God is faithful to us in whatever we face. And so we walk together.” What has helped you face loss and grief?
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