Monday, April 26, 2010

The loss is real, even for Mormons.

 A friend linked me to this article Grief is OK- even for Mormons, and it was so comforting to read.  

"Unlike the Savior, we do not have the ability to raise our deceased friends and family from the grave, but we do have the full range of human emotion -- a gift, I'm certain, God intended for us to experience -- and grief is part of that. ... In the meantime, they will grieve, cry, mourn and confront their testimonies head on. And I think that's OK.""

Sometimes it seems like because we believe in eternal families and life after death, that it gives us a free pass to not grieve, or worse, to expect others not to grieve. Mormons pride themselves on having "happy" funerals. The reason being, we 'know' we will see them again someday, so why mourn? We should celebrate their joyous reunion with their loved ones who have gone on before, and look forward to our own reunions with anticipation. Yes, we will miss them, but having our gospel knowledge is comfort enough.

So at a Mormon funeral you'll notice its not customary for everyone to wear black, its a colorful affair. You'll notice more "happy" tears than sad ones. Its not uncommon for funerals to feel more like family reunions, and you're more likely to hear laughing and reminiscing about the past than silence in respect for the dead.

When I was a younger, I remember feeling a sort of pride that we could treat funerals this way. It was almost like we were more enlightened, we didn't need to debase ourselves with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. We didn't need to drape ourselves in black and keep our heads lowered. We knew the truth!

When someone dies of natural causes at the end of a very long fulfilling life, this reaction isn't so troublesome. In fact, I think most people would want their loved ones to celebrate their life, than to mourn their loss. But sometimes, I think we take it too far. True, it does make attending funerals much more pleasant. No need to burden oneself with the uncomfortable feelings of grief and loss. But who is the funeral really for? What is the real purpose? I think the desire to comfort has led some people to forget that they are there to mourn with those who mourn, not to make them smile and forget. The funeral is for the ones who were very close to the person who died, and need to express those feelings of loss and grief.

At my father's funeral when I was 18, I remember being "strong" and "brave". I greeted people, I shed "happy" tears, I reminisced. I thought that was what I was "supposed" to do. But the moment that meant the most to me was when a long time friend walked straight up to me and wrapped me in her arms and cried. Finally all the pent up emotion was released. I cried and cried, and felt more comfort in that moment than in a million "brave smiles" and "happy stories".

And then seven years later, I was standing in front of Gavin's casket before they closed the lid. I wanted to throw myself over his body and hold him and weep. But I kept thinking, 'We don't do those kind of things at funerals. Its not proper." So I didn't. I remained "strong" and "brave" and played my part well. But I was wrong. I should have cried. I should have held my baby one last time. I should have showed my true feelings.

I felt so upset the day after Gavin's funeral, and didn't really understand why at first. I felt like I was supposed to be "okay", and that Mormons shouldn't grieve (at least not publicly). That my next part to play should be to get up at Fast & Testimony meeting and testify that everything was okay because I 'knew' the truth. But the truth was...the truth didn't matter. It didn't make me feel any better at all! I wanted to weep and wail and gnash my teeth. I wanted to drape myself in the blackness that I felt all around me. I was feeling the loss, and nothing was going to make that "okay".

I realize now that those feelings are not just okay, they are sacred. There is nothing more sacred than the love a mother has for her child. And the expression of those feelings, of that incredible loss, is pure and real. Those who shut themselves off from those feelings, from expressing them, and also from helping others to bear them, are missing a fundamental part of humanity. Feeling the Loss explains it so well:  

"Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise, He did not arrive at the tomb with smiles and assurances that all would be well. The loss was real. It is because He wept at the grave of His friend that I feel I can reach to Him with my own losses."

Jesus could have simply strolled in and rose Lazarus from the dead immediately. But He didn't. He wept with them. He felt the loss. He bore their grief, and grieved himself. Why? I believe He did it to show us that grief is a sacred and necessary part of life and death.

Its okay to feel sad. Its okay to cry. Its okay to mourn and grieve. The loss is real. Even for Mormons.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I miss...

...little boy flip flops. And little boy clothes. And little boy toys. Every time I go to the store I try not to look at the clothes, but I can't seem to help myself. Sometimes I just stop and stare at an outfit that would have looked so cute on him. It takes all my will power not put it in my cart. What would I do with it?! I don't know...put it in a box in the top of a closet, I guess. I just want to HAVE it. I want to buy it and hold it and look at it and cherish it. But I know its too cruel.

Sometimes I see him in Olivia. If I look at her out of the corner of my eye, I can almost pretend it IS him. Just for a few seconds... Sometimes I hold her and close my eyes and try to remember. I run my fingers through her hair and wish they had those same little curls.