In the Bible, we’re given glimpses of the grieving rituals in Israel. At times, this included hiring a professional mourner. Yes, that is a person hired to cry, wail, and beat their breast when a person dies (but the real question is, does it have good medical benefits?). Again, this is a culture that values grieving. Jesus was no stranger to grief. One of the most personally moving examples of Jesus’ grief is when his good friend Lazarus died. What did Jesus do? In one of the most succinct and powerful verses in the Bible, Jesus wept (John 11:35). Then he rose Lazarus back to life. But not before he grieved and acknowledged the deep sadness in death.
I think one of the challenges in grief is entering into the tension of feeling the sadness, anger, and guilt over what can no longer be, while still clinging to the belief that the story does not end here. It’s not ignoring the pain, but it’s also not letting the pain be (ultimately) the tragic end. Sometimes, I get lost in my grief, or I avoid it for fear of getting lost in it. It is in those moments when I see that I was not made to walk this path alone.
Grief is to be journeyed with others. It has been scary to let safe people into my grief. I often have to start by just stating my experience and as I begin to trust those people, the emotions eventually come. This has been a process for me and I still have a ways to go. Just this week I had a good friend over for dinner. I was talking about my experience of singleness lately and she mentioned how disconnected my facial expressions were from the clearly painful story I was telling. I took a risk, and allowed myself to really feel my sadness with another. These are messy places for us to go, but I truly believe that as communities, this is one of the most significant gifts we can offer to another: the gift of company.
Isaiah prophecies Christ, calling him a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. Even in the times when it feels like no earthly human can meet me in my grief, I am not alone. Jesus, who experientially knows grief is there, with me, loving me. In the midst of grief, he is our divine company.