Margie Hord

Expat by Default

Tag: MOURNING

Good Grief

low-angle photo of lightened candles

Photo by Mike Labrum (Unsplash)

Grief is real. Taking time to grieve is necessary and legitimate. Grief never ends completely, they say, although time and grace temper it.

Over just two years, I lost the three people closest to me: my Dad, my Mum, and my husband. Each loss ripped a piece from my heart. The last one left me with an empty house as well.

Keeping busy most of the day kept me from dwelling on the pain, but sometimes as my head hit the pillow, reality set in and my eyes flooded with tears. I would try to shoo away the regrets and what-ifs, but sleep could be a long time coming.

Not only did my housemate of years pass away; dreams died as well. All those “when we retire, then we can do this and that, and more” dreams. The places we still wanted to visit, the ways we still wanted to serve the Lord and others.

It was time to decide to continue with some of those dreams on my own, and to seek guidance for new ones as well. Gradually, time for “recuping” and regrouping.

A year or so ago, I shared about my first months of widowhood in From Mourning to the Morning Light. It’s hard to imagine what grieving would be like without God’s presence and the comfort of his Word.

Grieving is enriched by gratitude. Those special memories soften the pain. Talking and writing about them has been part of the healing process.

The Oil of Gladness

clear glass cruet bottle

Photo by Roberta Sorge (Unsplash)

The prophetic words of old were later claimed by Jesus to be referring to his ministry, which included giving “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit”. That’s for me!

In Biblical times, hosts of different Oriental nations would anoint their guests with olive oil. Among the Jewish people, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed to their office, representing consecration. Oil was a part of celebration, and also represented the Holy Spirit. That’s what is given to me!

Oil was also used for healing. The good Samaritan poured wine and oil on the wounds of the man beaten by robbers. Sheep were also anointed with oil, as we are reminded in the Shepherd’s Psalm: “Thou anointest my head with oil.Shepherds apply oil to keep sheep’s noses free of annoying nose flies, and to combat an infection called “scabs”, caused by parasites.

The oil of gladness: welcome, consecration, healing.

A Time to Dance

close up photography of woman dancing beside sunflower field during golden hour

Photo by Blake Cheek (Unsplash)

Just the other day, my daily reading included the famous passage that reminds us that “To everything there is a season.” A list of contrasting seasons follows.

What jumped out at me was this: “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

It hit me that gradually I had been able to cry less, laugh more (though I never quit!)… and was ready to “dance.” Little did I realize that at a women’s retreat the following day, I would be participating in a group that was learning choreography for a cheerful number!

Dancing is a celebration. Dancing often means rejoicing with others. In the Jewish tradition, it often means a spiritual act of adoration.

In Biblical times and still in some cultures today, mourning is expressed with loud laments and other manifestations of grief. In our culture, there are even those who will say, “Don’t cry” in an attempt to comfort the mourner. Let us not discourage tears, a normal outlet for our emotions.

“Good grief” lets tears come. It takes its time to heal. It cherishes the memories. It welcomes the embraces of those who comfort.

In due time, the season of dancing will come. The oil of gladness will bring healing.

From Mourning to the Morning Light

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” These words came to mind as the sun and wind caressed me there in the cemetery. Not in traditional mourning garb, I wore a long, loose white native “huipil” with small colored designs woven into it, one my husband had loved. The workers had begun the long process of filling the grave, as off and on friends sang beloved hymns and choruses of hope.

Just one day after my life companion took off on a new journey, I was overwhelmed by the loss, but at the same time upheld by those “everlasting arms”, sensing the freedom that Refugio’s soul now enjoyed.

It was the rainy season, and in the afternoons a downpour was almost inevitable, but my heavenly Father cared enough to make that day different and the sun shone gloriously.

Divine “coincidences”

There had been innumerable “divine coincidences” that had come together to cushion the blow. Knowing that my husband’s health was fragile with a chronic disease, I had asked if he thought I could visit my aging mother, for those last years can be so unpredictable. He felt he could get by without me, so the long-distance tickets were bought… and not long afterwards my Mum passed away! The memorial service was set for a few weeks later, when I had already planned to be there.

Two weeks after my return, our daughter and family arrived from afar, by surprise. Their presence was so special and perfectly-timed. “Pa” decided to leave us the day before their departure was programmed, just a month after my arrival. Well, our heavenly Father had his hand in it, of course, and they changed their tickets to be with me for the funeral.

These incidences and more have helped to bring rainbows to my life as the sun– and the Son– shine through the tears.

Person waering neutral colors walking through a field of wheat

Only Smiles?

This week I shared a Scottish poem someone had posted in social media about losing a loved one but instead of crying, smiling with the memories of their life. It seemed appropriate. Then a friend commented, “Doesn’t the author accept the reality of grief?”

He’s right. Denying the reality of sorrow, in fact, the need for grieving, is hurtful in the long run. It may mean pushing down those feelings that are natural, real, profound. Releasing those emotions in the form of tears is part of the healing process.

Even so, the glimpses of light filtering through the darkness are more frequent, I believe, when you can cling to the Easter message of resurrection. This is not the end. This life is, in fact, only the Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called it, where we prepare for true Life.

Lessons on Mourning from the Word

  • Mourning and grief are an integral part of this fallen world, with the inevitability of death. I am always touched by the tears Jesus shed upon the death of his friend Lazarus. Surely he, who promised eternal life and indeed was LIFE, knew the end of the story. Still, he understood pain. At the same time, he showed there could be victory over death when he raised Lazarus from the dead… a foretaste of his own more permanent resurrection.
  • Two people in mourning or grieving on a couch in a living room

 

 

  • God is with us in the process, and can show us “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Much as there may seem to be no end to our pain, there is hope:

 

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,”

 

  • The “nighttime” is real; the weeping should be allowed to wash the soul. There is a “morning” ahead:

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

  • It is natural to mourn, and it is a time in which our presence is most needed… much more than words. Even crying with them is identifying with their loss.

 

Mourn with those who mourn”.

 

  • Those of us who are people of faith do not make light of grief, much as we hold a hope beyond this life’s sorrow.

       “Godly men… mourned deeply for him.”

 

The day of the funeral, I was able to catch a glimpse of the light beyond the grave. In the days following, there have been tears, often at unexpected times. Friends have been a strength, as has been God’s Word. Joy is not a stranger, however, and is richer now that it can be sensed in counterpoint to the grief.

May you who mourn… find there is “joy in the morning”!

© 2019 Margie Hord

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