“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” –Ecclesiastes 3:4 (KJV)
Oftentimes, we have been trained and taught in families and especially religious circles not to cry when a loved one passes. How many times have you been at a funeral and heard someone say, “They’re just sleeping” or “Celebrate their life” or my least favorite, “This is not a funeral!”. I always want to grab the microphone and scream, “Yes it is!” But I digress…
At the time of this writing, it is Mother’s Day weekend 2016. I have been blessed beyond measure to have my mother still with me, as well as both of my grandmothers. Trust me, I realize how blessed I am, and I understand that this is not everyone’s truth. As a psychotherapist and Christian counselor, I have been flooded with questions via e-mail and social media inbox this week around grief and death, so I thought it necessary to write this blog. Even though I still have my mother and grandmothers, I have lost other close relatives, often back to back, and I have years of experience helping other people walk through the stages of grief.
It has been my experience that many people have not properly grieved and come to a place of acceptance with their loved one’s death because they have not allowed themselves to properly go through the stages of grief. They’re told to get right back to work, get right back to ministry, “get over it”, etc., all of which is extremely unhealthy. Additionally, they have not been allowed proper time to go through these stages and heal properly without feeling judged or condemned about their process. I can’t count how many times someone has told me, “I’m not supposed to feel that way.” What does that even mean? Who told you that?! You feel what you feel!
“Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” –Isaiah 53:4 (KJV)
This Scripture is often used to tell people that they should not grieve because after all, “Jesus bore our grief and our sorrows”. Yes, Jesus bore our grief (sicknesses, weakness and distresses in the Amplified Bible) on the cross, but that does not exempt us from experiencing those things because we are still human. Isaiah 53:4 is not a command not to grieve. That would be telling us that we are not human. Further, why would Jesus have to bare it if we’re don’t experience it? It just doesn’t make sense.
To balance this theologically, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that our High Priest [Jesus] can understand, sympathize and be touched with our weakness and infirmities. Jesus understands what we feel. The pain, the hurt, the loss, the anger, the confusion. Jesus can be touched by all of these feelings that we feel as humans because though He was God, He became human to save and redeem us [Kinsmen-Redeemer]. He can relate to us. He knows how we feel in moments of grief, sorrow and pain.
This is where the psychological marries the theological because He can walk us through (paracletus; the Holy Spirit) every stage of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and every emotion attached to it. One of the many jobs of the Holy Spirit is to walk along side of us as a helper and guide. This is also the ministry and function of a counselor; to walk alongside their clients and help them through the difficulties and transitions of life. Yes, counseling is a ministry of the Holy Spirit! (Reference 1 Thessalonians 5:14)
There are thoughts, feelings and emotions associate with grief that simply need to be worked out and let go of and this will only come through the process. One must allow themselves to go through the process. Anything else is suppression [pressing down negative feelings into the subconscious mind]. I repeat, many people are suffering and cannot get to a place of acceptance of their loved one’s death because they are still stuck in the beginning stages of grief, even though their loved one has been gone for several years.
Grief is a process and anyone who tells you not to go through that process completely is telling you not to be human. God never told us not to be human, that’s why we have to the Holy Spirit to help our human infirmities and frailties. You still have a soul, which is your emotions. You are not a robot! You must take care of your soul or every other part of you will be off-balanced. Your soul is the very foundation of who you are.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” -1 Thessalonians 4:13
This is another Scripture that is often used to tell people not to cry, weep or grieve when a loved one passes. Firstly, a basic understanding of the English language would give us insight into the fact that because we don’t weep as those who do not have hope doesn’t mean we don’t weep at all! Secondly, when interpreting a Scripture, it is important to look at the context, history and who it was originally written to. What the apostle Paul is addressing here is a secular doctrine that was beginning to infiltrate the church. This false doctrine stated that once a person was dead, they were gone. This was totally against what Paul and the other apostles taught.
So in this Scripture, Paul was not telling the people to be cold, calloused, insensitive robots that are apathetic and show no human emotion, he was reminding them that as Believers, our belief is that when Jesus returns, He will resurrect the dead. Those who are dead really are just sleeping. That’s why Paul started by saying, “I would not have you ignorant”. We have a hope and a future, so we don’t weep as those who have no hope, but we still weep, cry and grieve! (I just love STUDYING the word!) Our loved ones are in good hands after they pass on, but we are still left to deal with the emotions of their passing because we still remain and we are still human.
In closing, during a recent session of my event “A Night of Soul Healing”, my panelist and I were asked a question, “Do you ever get over the death of your mother?”. My panelists and I all came to a consensus on answering this question. You never really “get over” something like that, but you learn to live with it. It gets “easier” after you walk through the process and come to a place of acceptance.
One of my panelists who had walked through the experience of losing a parent stated, “You still have rough days, but it gets better”. She could say this because she had been through the stages of grief and gained some level of acceptance.
I urge each of reading this blog to go through the process. Even if your loved one has been deceased for many years, go through the process. You know when you’re not healed and you don’t have closure. Only you know that. Everybody’s process is different and everyone deals with grief in a different way. Don’t let religious people, society, family members, or even yourself convince you that you can’t cry, show emotion, that you have to be “strong for everybody”, etc. It is a process! You need to go through this process, even if it’s been years since the death of your mother or loved one.
You are human and it’s okay to cry!
Happy Mother’s Day! Even if your mother isn’t here, still make some kind of meaning out of this day by honoring your mother and another mother who is still with us!