I have been thinking a lot about mourning this week and the different faces of mourning. It has been exactly one week since my husband's attack on his bicycle and everyday he has to put one foot in front of the other to carry on and everyday there are different emotions and different realities to face. The hardest thing is when people come along and say - so aren't you okay already? Haven't you healed up yet? Your face has cleared up, so you must be better.
Human beings are insensitive to the trauma's that hurt our souls. I studied trauma counselling for 2 years and I worked with victims of crime for 4 years, and of course I have endured trauma and loss too. Trauma is something that touches deeply at our core, it touches the very essence of our spirits and souls. Some people can get stuck in a traumatic event, some will stay there for years, others will slowly crawl out of it.
The trauma of loss and grief is something that most don't understand and I truly hope that after this post, you will be a little bit more sensitive to the trauma of those around you and perhaps to the trauma you yourself are still holding inside.
This morning as my husband was talking to me, I started asking Father about the various emotions I heard being expressed - the Father led me to a specific place where I started reading about mourning and loss. I quickly realised with what gentleness Father God was whispering to me that My husband is mourning his loss and it is perfectly okay.
The Jewish way of mourning is the way that I find best allows the mourner to express his or her pain. As I spent some years in the synagogue and have often been involved in issues of worldwide mourning (like when the Rabbi and his wife in Mumbai were murdered), here is how it works.
There is a shiva period - a period of seven days after the burial where the mourners sit on low chairs, those closest to the deceased (like a mom or dad) often tear their clothes and will wear those clothes in this time period. Mourners don't wear shoes, they cover mirrors and do not groom themselves or cut their hair. Many neighbors will visit and sit with the mourners, its a time to be with them in their pain, not a time to force them to move on. Pain and trauma are acknowledged and the mourners are allowed to express their feelings and heartache.
In Jewish tradition, the feelings of those mourning are always taken in to account and it is the duty of those around them to honour those feelings by being present in that pain. A further 30 day period of mourning is usually observed, those who are mourning will draw out of their homes and move around, but still certain practices like cutting the hair are not done.
This period of mourning reminds me of the way people mourned even 60 to 100 years ago, depending on the relationship between the deceased and those left behind, certain people would wear black clothing (symbols of mourning and grief) for months after the person has passed away. I personally have worked with people who have lost loved ones and outward symbols of grief help express inward pain, wearing black is one way of expressing that pain.
In the 60's Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote an informative book called "on death and dying" in it she recognises five universal stages that individuals transition through when they are experiencing loss. I want to add that as I now talk about loss, I am opening this up to more then just death. Loss and grief is expressed over many things, and this is something that psychologists are now becoming aware of. These five stages of loss include the following:
1 - Denial and Isolation
2 - Anger
3 - Bargaining
4 - Depression
5 - Acceptance
Loss and grief of any kind is always personal and as believers we need to learn to be sensitive to the grief and pain of others. Grief is associated with loss of any kind, you could be grieving because your marriage broke up, or because you are currently facing a business loss, family loss, health loss, loss of a friendship or relationship which was dear to you but had to end. The loss of a dream, or something you worked hard to obtain or achieve, or loss of the feeling of safety after a traumatic situation. I want to encourage all of you reading this to become more and more sensitive to the reality of grief in your own life and in the lives of those around us. As followers of Messiah, let's love one another from a deep place.
For those who are grieving, here is some practical advice to help:
1 - Take comfort in your faith!
2 - Join a support Group
3 - Speak to a grief or trauma counselor
4 - Take care of yourself, dont pretend, dont ignore the feelings!
5 - Look after your physical health, dont neglect your body!
As I was thinking of grief and loss, I cannot help but think that our Messiah Yeshua felt loss and grief. He wept when He heard of his friend Lazarus' death and He wept many times at the infirmities and pains of people. This is why Hebrews tells us that we have a High Priest and Saviour who can sympathise with us in all of our pains and griefs, because He experienced them Himself. Let us take courage and know that in all of our feelings, our King is compassionately there to lead us through them all and to comfort us, never forcing us to move on but helping us take daily steps to greater healing. Let us learn from His Example!