Finally Grieving

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).

4 thoughts on “Finally Grieving

  1. Hey John,
    So I read your post tonight and it really resonated with me. My dad died a little over two years ago as well- it may have been a completely different circumstance, but the wellspring of grief is almost the same. You are right, our world today does not allow for grief, pain, or loss to be expressed in a natural way. I used to think of how in the “olden-days” it was so strange that people were forced to wear black for a year after the death of a family member. Now I think it would have been a relief to be able to publicly display such a loss, and have it be respected and honored by the community.
    Do not think that you are not being strong by feeling grief for your father- he is loved by you and your family too much to ever not feel missed. Personally I grieved the loss of my dad for years before he had actually even passed away, and now, even though I feel at peace (strange concept right??), it still strikes me every once in a while that he is not here to take part in our lives. Anyway, I guess I just mean to say that in my own unique way, I understand your grief. And you’re right- God is a protector, even of the widows and orphans.

  2. This was inspiring, John. Thank you for being honest about this experience and please don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything if there are times where it becomes fresh again which I do pray you are able to move on. I know how it feels to lose a family member. Both my grandparents passed away within two weeks of each other. We were not ready for that. My mom grieved for over a year and in that time I had to act as “mom” (it was both her parents) for the rest of my siblings because she was grieving so hard she wouldn’t even get out of bed most days. I didn’t even have time to mourn myself and so mine also came much later when my mom was starting to come out of her own. I am thankful that God catches our tears and puts smiles on our faces. 🙂 “You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy”. -Psalm 30:11 🙂

  3. John, this is the first time for me to read your blog and I must say that I so relate to this story. To lose a parent is one thing but to lose one when you are young is something. When I was thirteen my mother went home to be with the Lord. It took me awhile to grieve but the whole step of the way the Lord was holding me in the palm of his hand and he continues to do so every time the anniversary day of my mother’s death comes around. God is so faithful!

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