Handling Grief Part 4 Are you over it yet?
This sculpture by Albert György, entitled ‘Melancholy’, can be found beside Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It sums up bereavement. (Ó Albert Gyorgy used with kind permission not to be reproduced for a hi resolution copy email firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Maddox, a Kansas pastor, speaking about how he feels after his daughter’s death says, ‘We may look as if we carry on with our lives as before. We may even have times of joy and happiness. Everything may seem “normal”. But this “emptiness” is how we all feel . . . all the time.’
People have asked, and a number have implied the question, ‘Are you over it yet?’ It’s quite shocking when you are on the receiving end. I had one newly bereaved daughter-in-law in our church after one week, yes one week, say that church members were implying to her that she would be ‘over it soon’. Christians often feel or others incline them to feel guilty over long-continuing tears of bereavement. Sometimes other well-meaning church members try to almost force an unreal spirituality because they feel we should ‘live up to it’. Why? Because apparently the comfort of the Spirit should be sufficient to dry tears. However, the fact is that the drying of tears does not happen until heaven, QED. In fact, the more like Jesus we are, the more we will be like Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. We are allowed to weep, it is expected, and he even gathers our tears into his bottle.7
I’m not judging here either. Countless times I have had that lump of concrete in the pit of my stomach as I approach a bereaved person or family, crying to God, ‘Please give me some words’. It’s hard, and we often don’t know what to say. One of the most helpful moments for Gill and me was when our friend Rob Parsons came to visit us. He listened for over an hour and a half, gave no advice, told us one short story. But he wept with us and said the most meaningful thing anyone could say: ‘I have no clever words and even my prayer on the way here wasn’t clever. All I could pray was, “Lord let me do them no harm.”’
Words can occasionally help, often they are neutral, sometimes they even do damage (like ‘Are you over it yet?’) But what we can all do is by our presence weep with those who weep. Our presence and our tears can say more than words will ever communicate.
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Proverbs 11.25 ESV 11A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver