Grief is one of the strongest emotions of the human psyche. If you have experienced it, you will never forget it. If you have not experienced it, you will. It is the natural psychological response to loss.
It can be a deep and profound loss, such as the death of a spouse, child, or parent. It can be the loss of anyone or anything we love - the end of a marriage, the death of a pet, moving from a home, losing a job, or deteriorating health.
Grief feels like a deep, open, painful wound. It is a soul ache. It is a void in the soul. It is vast emotional emptiness. Some people die of grief. We say they die of a broken heart. There is medical evidence to suggest this is literally true. The psychological stress of grief can increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood clotting, which can raise chances of a heart attack.
A recent news article about mourning stated, “A ‘perfect storm’ of stress, lack of sleep and forgetting to take regular medication puts mourners at increased risk in the days after losing a loved one. Scientists showed that after a significant person's death, heart attack risks increased to 21 times higher than normal within the first day, and were almost six times higher than normal within the first week.”
Grief is deadly. Yet in the beatitudes Jesus calls mourners blessed. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mourning does not feel like a blessing when we are in the middle of it. And nothing seems to bring comfort. But Christ’s words reveal a deeper truth.
Mourning gives us access to a deep part of ourselves, which is normally hidden from our sight. It is a wound that lays bare the spiritual heart. It opens a window to the soul. It is a “window of opportunity,” which stays open only for a while. The window gradually closes as time progresses. This window holds the blessing.
Mourning reveals our innermost being. It exposes us to God… and God to us. In the presence of God is comfort. That is the blessing. It shows us the transitory nature of life; that truth, when experienced deeply, is a blessing.
We can medicate away the blessing out of fear of pain. We can emotionally suppress it, try to avoid it, or deny it. We can wallow in grief, which only sucks us into the depths of darkness.
Or we can let the mourning mourn. Let grief do its work. Let it bring us into the depths where the Spirit dwells. Let it bring us into the presence of God.
In mourning, a part of us dies with the one we have lost. In this partial death, we can partially experience life beyond death. That is blessing. Eternal life now. The Kingdom of God within us. In dying we live. That is the blessing of the mourning.
Mourning Woman by Egon Schiele. 1912. Oil on wood.