It’s been 2 years since my dad passed away due to cancer. As a young 20 year old man fresh out of college, I tried to evaluate the grieving process before he died and come up with a plan. I recognized that grief would be a tricky beast to conquer and that the key is to figure out when to move on and when to keep grieving. So when my dad died, I thought I was ready.
But the thing about death and grief is that you’re never quite ready to undertake it…especially in modern America where death is swept under the rug as quickly as possible. I grieved for a while and then thought it was time to move on. I fell into the trap of trying to ignore the impact of my dad’s death. I doused myself with entertainment and lost myself in laughter. If I could just ignore the grieving process, stamp out my emotions, press on in spite of the pain, then I would be fine. But God gave us emotions just as much as He gave us reason and I found that suppressing those emotions was not helpful.
So finally, this past fall, I came across an album by Matthew Perryman Jones called Land of the Living, written mostly in response to his dad’s death. On it is a song called “The Angels Were Singing,” which talks about the actual death, burial, and grief that surrounded that. In the climax of the song, as the music swells, he sings of the heart-wrenching parting, “And I finally was grieving that long goodbye.” When I heard the song I broke down..I finally let the emotions through and grieved. A year and a half too late, but I grieved. I thought of my dad’s final moments in the cold hospice room during the hour of death. I thought of my final goodbye, the funeral, the numb days after. And I grieved those days and moments.
To be honest, it threw me into a funk for a while, but on the other side I felt better for it. I had shed off the masks and counterfeit coping mechanisms and allowed myself true closure. Now what’s the point of all that to you? Over the past 2 years I’ve written a couple other blog posts about death and grief; it’s become a sort of mission for me. Most people don’t know how to grieve and react, I think, much like I did at the first. But I want to say that if I learned anything from my experience, it’s that it’s okay to give yourself time to mourn. Other people may find it awkward when you cry, but God isn’t afraid. He puts our “tears in [His] bottle” and numbers our wanderings (Ps. 56:8). He is “near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18). So don’t be afraid to let yourself mourn. If you can turn to no one else, you can turn to God. He is the “God of comfort” for a reason (2 Cor. 1:3).