This Mourning’s Lesson

I shed a fear tears just now.  They had nothing to do with the outcome of any game played this weekend. I just put away my winter gloves.  They are back in the closet where they should be in September.  You see, I no longer need them to take things in and out of the fridge and freezer.  I’m off the drug that causes neuropathy and am now able to hold cold things and drink cold things without adverse reactions.  There are still some residual effects which I hope correct themselves in time, but for now it’s a reason to shed happy tears.

As an emotionally charged, mercy driven person, I am not a stranger to tears. I feel things pretty intensely — good and bad. The past several months tears have come at various times, in relatively short doses. They have provided release as well as cleansing. Reflecting on this season I am aware more than ever of the importance of sharing in one another’s sorrow.

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Here’s my disclaimer:  This one will include scripture. My faith is a part of this process. I seek to sort out my thoughts and for those who choose to read, I’m glad you are sharing in this. For those who prefer to stay clear, I am not offended. 

Romans 12:18 

Rejoice with those who rejoice

Mourn with those who mourn

This scripture verse seems simple. Perhaps for some it comes more easily than others. There is no doubt that certain situations make it easier, or more natural, for some to rejoice with others and even mourn with others. While I have many thoughts about the value and challenge of rejoicing with others, my thoughts and experiences in recent months have me focused on the mourning. 

The tears I shed over my winter gloves fall into a rejoicing category. Responses are naturally encouraging and celebratory. I appreciate that. There is strength in encouragement.  However, I have learned there is great strength received when others share in our mourning.

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I know that many who have endured sorrow have been met with some responses that have left them perplexed and/or wounded. I wonder if I have been on the giving end of some of those responses. I am not seeking to share the few head shaking comments I have heard since cancer became a part of my life, but I am seeking to learn from those very moments. More importantly I am seeking to learn from those who allowed me to grieve and mourn and joined me in that process.

I am not angry with those who have said things that may come off a bit strange or unfeeling. I would imagine these comments come from a feeling of discomfort. We don’t like pain. We are uncomfortable.  Thanks to the education I received from my care providers I have learned to set boundaries and limit my exposure to some of these reactions. It’s okay.

Personally, the reactions that have been the toughest are those well meaning comments that shut off grief.  For some, the discomfort turns into a sort of sermonizing. It seems that they feel a need to share “positives” or “blessings” or “promises” or whatever. I think the intentions may be good but misguided at times.  You see, we are to mourn with those who mourn.  There is a need to have compassion and understanding when there is sorrow. Sharing all the promises may be shutting down the grief.

I am, as always, trying to choose my words with purpose. I do not want to wound anyone, but am seeking to learn how to better express myself and to be better at sharing in others sorrow.

I have appreciated the many who have simply said “I’m sorry” or “I’m sorry you’re going through this.” I have appreciated the many who have acknowledged that they don’t know what I am going through. I have appreciated that many have assured me of their prayers and thoughts. For me, these have been a part of my mourning.

It has been hard at time to share the difficulties of this cancer thing. First of all, it is so weird (as I have said in other posts) that I don’t know how to adequately describe what I am feeling and thinking at times.  Second, I did not grow up in a home where whining was allowed (thank you, Mom!) so at times I feel like I’m whining. I come to tears even now with a grateful heart for those who have allowed me to “whine.” Thank you for mourning with me in knowing that this is tough. There are aspects that are down right nasty and to put on a face that is only seeking positives, blessings or promises would be dishonest. The honest truth is that there is grief and mourning in this. Thank you to those who have not shied away from the pain and have acknowledged the grief.

At the risk of sounding like I am writing a sermon, I want to note that when Job was enduring tough stuff (and that is putting it mildly), his friends tore their clothes and wept with him (Job 2:11-13.) They shared in his grief and didn’t succumb to what some would find uncomfortable by turning to all the promises. John 11:33 is an example when Jesus mourned with the family of Lazarus. It was no small thing. It was shared mourning! If anyone knew promises, He did. But He knew their grief and it was good that it was shared.

I am a person who believes in the promises of God. I also am hopeful about a positive prognosis. I have much to be thankful for.  I know all of that!  However, those things do not erase the tough stuff and the mourning. Sometimes it is wise to leave the encouraging promises and verses for another time.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the many expressions of encouragement but I would like to encourage a sensitivity to shared mourning. I have come to know that there is value in it.

Maybe I’m not being clear.  That’s always a concern for me as a writer.  Mourning that has been shut down has been my experience when people have responded to comments I have made about this cancer thing with a “well, good will come” or “think what you’re learning” or “that’s not so bad.” (These are weak examples as I don’t want to direct anything toward any individual!) I had a similar feeling earlier this summer when someone asked about my daughter’s experiences in Zambia. I can say that I was responding in honesty, without complaint, but I felt that to every response I gave there was a little “sermon” on the blessings and promises.  This wasn’t a grieving moment but it is a similar example of how sometimes we need to be better listeners and learn to share in one another’s experiences rather than be so quick to direct the other person.

I mentioned earlier, that I am mercy driven. I am a positive person overall and am realizing I’m stronger than I knew. I think encouragement is wonderful and in no way am discounting it’s value. I am confident of God’s promises, but I am also vividly aware that there are despairingly tough things in life.  A dear friend who is going through her own sorrow has been a great source of strength to me.  We are sharing in each other’s grief, even though it is very different. A couple of weeks ago when I shared that I sensed I was entering an emotional valley her response was, “I’m praying it would be a shallow & short valley. I totally get looking for and knowing the blessings, but being in the “muck & mire.”  In her response, I was encouraged because she didn’t discount the pain of the valley, she knew my faith was okay and she shared the pain of the muck & mire. We have continued to connect knowing that life is hard and sometimes it needs to be acknowledged just for that.  We aren’t trying to paint a pretty picture of what is not guaranteed for us in this life as we live it. We are aware of truth but are mourning with one another.

I hope my sorting does not put people off or slow people down in their efforts to show kindness. I hope my mental and emotional sorting helps me become better at listening and responding with a spirit sensitive to the pain and sorrow of others. I could write volumes about rejoicing and am thankful my gloves can be put away. Rejoice with me in that!!! It’s a big deal that deserves an ice cream cone celebration! Shared joy is a good thing.But as I write this, I am aware of shared mourning and the good that can be gained from that.

In this mourning’s lesson, I hope that there is a sense of value for the shared mourning that gives strength.

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