I’ve been thinking about the kinds of things that we mourn this week. Most often we associate mourning with death, but our mourning may be about a relationship that is lost or broken, a planned future that is now forever changed, a loss of innocence, a missed experience, the absence of something meaningful, or even a communal loss or tragedy. No matter what it is that we are mourning, the process is raw and emotional. It can often bring up feelings that have been buried for years, drawing them to the surface and forcing us to deal with them. If you’ve spent time with someone just after they’ve experienced a significant death or tragedy, you know how layered and complex the mourning process can be. Fear, anger, hopelessness, anxiety, and sadness can be intermingled with laughter and remembrance. The process takes a lot of time and often… a lot of tears.
I’m becoming convinced that this process of mourning is an important, if not essential part of our own growth and transformation as a person. Mourning seems to give us special permission to become deeply aware of our emotions, to experience them, and to try to come to a new place of understanding about where we must move forward. Our society is fairly good at allowing people to mourn after experiencing a significant loss of a loved one. However, there are a number of less public events in our lives where mourning is not only appropriate but also essential to helping us work through our emotions and move forward. I know that a good deal of my time in seminary had to be spent mourning the loss of a belief system that no longer provided meaning. Letting go of these beliefs and rebuilding new ones was a difficult process, but allowing myself to experience the emotions associated with the transition allowed me to come to a new place of understanding.
This week, I spent time with a person who had been badly burned by the church after coming out as a homosexual. It had taken years to gather the strength to come through the doors of the church and in the course of our conversation, for the first time, they began to mourn the loss of all the years they had believed they were not loved by God. As I sat with this person, I recognized that amidst the tears… they were finding great comfort.
I wonder how we could help one another in the context of our faith communities to mourn well. What would it look like to create spaces where people could speak openly and honestly about their own mourning and find comfort and opportunities for growth?
Could that space be a class perhaps? With special note that we are learning to mourn all kinds of losses? I, for one, would be happy to be in such a group.