Thoughts on grief

The Tatura Guardian - - News - — Brian Spencer, Min­is­ter, Tatura Unit­ing Church

Grief is never what you ex­pect it to be. Each death is dif­fer­ent and gives rise to its own unique feel­ings and ex­pres­sions.

Each per­son who grieves does so from their own ex­pe­ri­ences and cir­cum­stances.

There are tragic deaths, un­ex­pected deaths, shock­ing deaths and good deaths.

Peo­ple die young, in the womb, in their prime and some live long enough to yearn for death to take them.

Peo­ple die from dis­ease, ac­ci­dent, mur­der, ter­ror­ism, sui­cide and old age.

Some are still car­ing for a young fam­ily, some are chil­dren, some are par­ents, some are iso­lated and alone. Some are alien­ated from kith and kin. Some die quickly, some die slowly, but all die un­ex­pect­edly be­cause we are never re­ally ready to say that fi­nal good­bye. My mother died last week. Mum had been fad­ing away be­fore our eyes for some time.

Alzheimer’s had pro­gres­sively erased us from her life.

At 96 years of age, liv­ing in her own world, in frail health, it’s easy to say that it was not un­ex­pected, but it wasn’t ex­pected last week nor did we ex­pect that the tran­si­tion from ‘‘Mum is fail­ing’’ to ‘‘Mum died this morn­ing’’ would be so quick.

De­spite all the dif­fer­ing cir­cum­stances of death and all the dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ships we have with the per­son who died there are con­ven­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions about grief that of­ten leave us feel­ing that some­how, we are not do­ing it right. Am I sad? Am I sad enough? Should I be sad­der? Should I be cry­ing more? Should I be cry­ing less? Should I be happy for her? Should I go to work? Should I wear a suit and tie to the fu­neral? Should I be ‘‘over it’’ by now?

The dan­ger is that we ei­ther role play what we think we should be do­ing and feel­ing or feel guilty that we are not nor­mal and not do­ing grief right. The truth is there is no right way. There is only what I feel. I have the right to feel what I feel. Even if it is to feel numb. Mum’s life spanned over nearly one cen­tury of change and un­dreamt-of in­ven­tions.

The photo trib­ute and eu­lo­gies at the fu­neral re­minded us of sim­pler times, of hard­ship and strug­gle, of places and peo­ple now gone, but also of a cul­tur­ally and spir­i­tu­ally rich world that be­lieved it was build­ing a bet­ter fu­ture for gen­er­a­tions to come.

May we live with such op­ti­mism and hope.

‘‘Je­sus wept’’ is the short­est verse in the Bi­ble.

As a child, it was a verse we kept in re­serve if a Sun­day School teacher asked us for a mem­ory verse.

Je­sus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.

Re­gard­less of what we be­lieve about the af­ter­life and God, death is aw­ful and our loss of re­la­tion­ship, love, in­ti­macy and friend­ship should never be min­imised or dis­missed. Yes, she is in a bet­ter place. Yes, she is not suf­fer­ing any­more, but still we grieve, in our own way and in our own time.

Alzheimer’s may have pro­gres­sively erased us from mum’s life but, she will not be erased from ours.

Hope­fully she is remembering. Hope­fully she knows and is known.

‘‘For now we see in a mir­ror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the great­est of these is love.’’ (I Corinthi­ans 13: 12-13)

This is the gospel, and it’s good news.

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