By: Megan Naumovski
The voice of the navigation system calls out:
Caution ahead. Construction zone on Grief Highway, slow down ahead. Exit now with caution or stay to the left to take the outer belt around the city, avoiding depressing content at all costs. Alternate route suggestion: binge-watch stupid sitcoms on Netflix until you have numbed yourself to sleep.
I want to talk about grief. This isn’t going be easy! But this topic is important. In fact, it is so vital I had to consult an expert. According to C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed,
Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently, it’s like that. Your bid—for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity—will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horrible high; until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpence but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man—or at any rate a man like me—out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses…
Grief Surpasses Culture and People
Grief is an odd thing. A truly transformative thing that should be where we stake our bets on what kind of strength resides within us when we are confronted with a loved-one’s death.
Our old neighbors were from India and became like family to us. The husband told me once of nursing both of his parents through cancer to their deaths, and all as a teenager and young adult. He explained that in his culture they had something like “the crying”. For days after a loved-one’s passing, they stopped the world, and wept. “We didn’t sleep; we barely ate…we just received visitors who wept and grieved with us.” It sounded horrific to me at the time, but in a culture where we feign self-control, it would seem contrary to our “togetherness”.
My Grapple With Grief
I was the last to go into my mother-in-law’s hospital room. A moment away from trying to be brave and helpful to my husband, father-in-law and siblings because I knew they had more “right” to be upset than I did. I also knew that I had to face my own earthly separation from her, and so with a deep breath I entered her room.
Our three aunts were there, weeping together (yet somehow very alone). We greeted each other attempting to comfort one another with tearful embraces. I approached the empty chair next to my mother-in-law, who laid peacefully on her hospital bed only an hour or two after she had passed. The next moment took my breath away—literally.
Shockingly, a spiritual vacuum seemed to engage and take hold of my soul. Tears, sobs, and the very breath pulled out of my lungs for what felt like an eternity. My stomach knotted and twisted in a way I never thought possible. I sobbed in a way I had never done before.
Grief Engulfs You
As my lungs continued to viciously choke breath forward, my memory mourned every sweet word she had ever said to me. Every stitch she had sewn into my clothing and every bite of every delicious food she prepared as if all meals were a wedding feast. Mostly, I mourned the way she accepted me as her daughter. She loved us all so well and united her suffering with Christ.
I think the level of my grief was shocking to me, and to my husband’s dear aunts, who were suddenly silent; perhaps suspended in the shock of what had overtaken me. I wanted to calm down. To control myself from what was perhaps too dramatic of a reaction, maybe even frightening to them. Yet it was too late! The door opened and grief entered in. I had no other option but to give it a place to rest its feet for a while.
From Grief to Good
It’s difficult to discuss this moment of pain and loss of self-control, but there is love in the offering. A revelation of grief as C.S. Lewis admits that writing “A Grief Observed” was recognition that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”
During the event of my mother-in-law’s passing, we all experienced the loneliness of grief. This occurred whether we were together in the same room or not.
Grief is a solitary experience. People connect with one another in a way that impresses upon the soul. Our experiences seem to form a linear bond of relation that can never be duplicated by two other people; we can’t even recreate the exact same moment of interchange or experience that we had with another person again. Each moment of interaction with another person holds its own relevance in time and eternity.
Our actions and relationships help shape us into the person we are today— better or worse. These are the things that we mourn at separation. While I was hugging my mother-in-law, I recalled the words she stated at my bridal shower. The same type of care and love her mother displayed all her children. My father-in-law was remembering sweet embraces of their early marriage. He also endured in supporting in the days before her death. My brother-in-law missed the way she laughed at his joy. My husband missed his mother who always encouraged him.
Seek Love During Grieving
When God our Father reminds us through his son, Jesus, that the greatest commandment is love. Love God first. Then love our neighbor as ourselves. He knew that every word, look, impression, feeling, condemnation, encouragement and connection built an interior experience that is outside of time and space.
Everything counts. The preciousness of human relationships is entwined in the great tapestry of the Master. Listen intently, O little creature of His; ask for a pure heart that sees the other with His eyes. Go forward with a prudent pace, a burning heart and a desire to delicately preserve those in your path today with the knowledge that each encounter will be forever imprinted on their soul and yours.
This article was inspired by a recent viewing of the movie Unplanned. I cried a gut-wrenching grief. Such grief has been a rare experience since the day of my sweet mother-in-law’s passing.
Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog.