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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Just where would an avalanche of tears be welcome?

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Have you ever been at church and, with painted smile on, greeted someone and the joy exuded been utterly inappropriate? Almost the moment I opened my mouth I realised I’d completely missed the gravity of the situation.
Ever been there? Where that very moment you pray you can listen with all you have in you so as to comprehend the other person’s pain — to meet them there. Of course, we cannot feel what they feel, but the desire to go there is a godly one.
Tears flowed, and they continued, the dam breached. The face puffed, the chin uncontrollably quivering. A person broken by the news of a tragedy that has changed the direction of their life — in an instant. As the story broke forth from her lips, there were nuances of pain freshly experienced — a mother and a brother who had also been blindsided with the shock of this loss.
There are many layers of pain to loss.
Grief is often overwhelmingly complicated.
Of course, I felt inept. But I quickly realised (for the umpteenth time) that it wasn’t about me. Thank God pastoral care in grieving situations accommodates the faux pas; that it’s such an imperfect science.
I realised, again, that my simply being there,
that my simple interest in her welfare, was enough.
I comprehended that care is always enough,
even if it doesn’t feel enough.
At one point she said, ‘I just cannot stop crying… it’s so silly.’ I have heard that so much in people like her, in a state of disbelief for the grief that smothers all normality like an avalanche, just one of sorrow.
It is another thing that I had no answer for, except, ‘You loved him so much and he’s gone; there’s a lifetime of sadness in that.’ As the words teemed out of my mouth I felt fear for harming her, but I shouldn’t have been worried. She seemed understood, most of my words, the depth of their meaning, washing over her; the bodily care superintending, even overpowering, the words. Good!
The conversation then centred on how inconvenient tears were. I wanted to say that tears were welcome here, but I sensed the lack of practicability in my words even as I was about to usher them into existence. Something important was agreed between us that moment that didn’t need to be communicated in words.
I had to recognise that nobody wants to melt all over the floor,
especially in a public place, even if it is in a church.
Later I discovered that she had been encountered by two others who listened to her at depth — we, the church, had done as much as we could, and probably exactly what we could and should.
We’re forgiven for wanting to rescue people from the sorrow of their grief, to make it okay, to aid in their healing. But grief is far too big to do that; it is an experiential reality nobody can be saved from.
For the most part, those who are grieving understand we cannot ‘fix’ them. They may want fixing, but they also know, and many times accept, that is beyond one human being in one moment.
The realities of grief cannot be avoided as if there was a way to do that which would address the problem. Of all people who I sense know this it’s those who are on their own grief journey, even very early on.
The grieving person doesn’t need or want
to be told what to do. Doing that is jarring.
We should see that in their response,
for which we ought to be truly sensitive to.
They simply need to know that we’re willing to spend time with them doing whatever they think might help. They’re not generally overly needy at these times, and in fact are usually enamoured of our needs.
It leaves us in the question we started with: just where would that avalanche of tears be welcome? In many ways, that is the moment’s answer, for none of us knows when that moment will sneak up and insist on being felt. We would pray for a safe and secluded place, with a dear friend or confidant attending. But life is so often not that convenient.
Certainly, the church should endeavour to be safe enough to be that place. And so often it is.

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