Grief is Work
Grief is work. It's a weight. Not just an emotional one, but a physical one. When you wake up (if you've even slept) your body aches. Like you've done a work out, and your muscles are protesting. Grieving is work.
The Church isn't always good at handling grief. Too often we are taught that our faith is based on transaction. If I do good. If I go to church every Sunday. If I pray every day. If I believe for the miraculous...then good will come back to me. And then the unthinkable happens. And those who are affected by the unthinkable know that the idea that you could live your life a certain way and have certain outcomes is complete and utter insanity. The unjust prosper. The poor suffer. Good people die and bad people continue to live. The Christian praying for healing dies and the atheist who never asked God for anything recovers. We learn the truth. There is nothing we can do that guarantees we won't be touched by tragedy. That we won't have to begin the work of grieving.
And when we start that work, how does The Church typically respond? Not well if I'm honest. There's a whole book in the Bible about the meaninglessness of life (Ecclesiastes) and a whole book centered around lament (Lamentations), but most of us skip over those books. We jump to a chapter and verse that we hope will gives us an answer. And what we don't realize is we're trying to answer the unanswerable. Know the unknowable. We're so uncomfortable when we don't have a simple answer...until we end up smack dab in the middle of a grief so profound it takes our breath away. When that happens we get comfortable with the unanswerable. But the rest of the world around us keeps trying to give us an answer...as if that will bring us relief.
But I remain hopeful. Hopeful that as a community we're trying to get better at the grieving. Recently I had the opportunity to be comforted and offer comfort to those in grief. And what I found were people willing to sit in the tension of the unknowable. I found people willing to say "this is not right" instead of "God has a plan". I found people who spoke of the peace they felt in the presence of an Almighty God while also speaking of the immense anger and confusion they felt over why he had allowed such suffering to happen. They weren't afraid to hold two opposing thoughts in their heads and their willingness to embrace that tension made the work of grief a little more bearable.
Grief is work, but you can make the burden of the work a little lighter. And to do that you don't have to say or believe the "right" thing. You don't have to try to fix the unfixable. The best gift you can give to those doing the work of grief? Your presence and your ears. Ears that are willing to listen and a mouth that is willing to stay silent. Most of all bring a heart and mind that embrace the uncomfortable fact that something is very wrong and we don't know how to fix it.
Grief is work. Don't stop us from doing our work. Join us in it.