The Cleansing Release of Grief

As I mentioned earlier this week, my grandfather passed away last Saturday. The funeral was yesterday (22 Sept 2011) and, though I wasn’t able to be there in person, I was able to send over a short eulogy of remembrance. I will miss this gentle and kind man.

Interestingly, a couple of months ago, as I was re-reading through John Eldredge’s book, The Journey of Desire (now simply called Desire), I was struck by his words around the subject of grieving found near the end of the book. They reached wider than simply grieving the death of a loved one, though he had recently experienced such. And so I share those thoughts below.

One morning I woke early and could not get back to sleep. My soul was agitated, restless. After what seemed like an hour of tossing and turning, I rose and slipped out of the cabin to take a walk. Waves of grief began to sweep over my soul. But it was not all about Brent or even primarily about him [Eldredge’s ministry partner and closest friend who had recently died in a climbing accident]. His death was the lance that pierced the wound of all the ungrieved grief of my life. Sorrows from my marriage, from college days, from wounds I received as a child – all of them poured forth through this place of release. Why had I waited so many years to shed these tears? As I wept, I realized that Paul was absolutely right. How can we live without groaning [Rom 8]? If we do not give our ache a voice, it doesn’t go away. It becomes the undercurrent of our addictions. Pleasure becomes necessary in larger and larger doses, like morphine.

The paradox of grief is that it is healing; it somehow restores our souls, when all the while we thought it would leave us in despair. Control is the enemy; grief is our friend……

Solomon said that it is better to go to a house of mourning than it is to a house of feasting. I never understood this; I wrote it off as the pessimism of a depressed man. Now I think I know what he meant. Grief is good. It is cleansing. It undoes my world – and that is the best part of it. I need to be undone; simply undone. No regrouping. We need to mourn; it is the only way our hearts can remain both free and alive in this world. Why? Because it, like nothing else, puts a stop to the constant striving. Grief is the antidote to the incessant possessive demand within. (p187-189)

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