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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

A Time to Mourn

We have survived the first year following Lisa’s death. It has been a year of adjusting our lives to a rhythm that does not include phone calls and problem solving and 24/7 access.(I wrote about the lessons from that year here )

Our mourning has taken different forms from gentle missing reminders to a deep untethered lostness. Mourning takes you on different paths, surprises you when you think you are coping well, unsettles you at the most inappropriate moment. I walked down a grocery aisle with tears in my eyes because I was no longer frantically looking for low-sodium replacements to Lisa’s diet. Who cries in a grocery aisle?

However, a time to mourn is not all about tears. Mourning gives you permission to feel what the loss takes away so that you can reorder your life around it. I remember well what the hospice chaplain told me a few weeks after Lisa’s death. The garage bulged with boxes of things it took to help Lisa live in her apartment. It was the way my heart felt as well--over-loaded and crowded. I told him I would be glad to get all of it sorted. He responded, “Then, you can choose how you want to bring Lisa’s sweet memory back into your life.” That’s what mourning helps you do. Sort, categorize, touch, remember, and reorient; but not in order to get over anything. We’ll never get over not having Lisa in our lives. Mourning would be a cruel taskmaster if it required it of us. Mourning prepares the way to welcome back all the good memories, all the ways I can live what she helped me become.

Death is only one type of loss that brings a time to mourn. The loss of a dream can be like a death without a funeral and no sympathy cards. However, push away the need to mourn a loss at your own emotional and physical risk. Give yourself permission to grieve what isn’t going to happen so that you will be ready for will come.

I counsel parents of children with special needs about the ongoing cycle of grief such a journey introduces. You are always losing something. I learned early to identify my place in the components of grief that may include denial, anger, fear, sadness, or depression. When I knew how I was responding to some new loss, I gave myself permission to experience the reality of that response knowing I didn’t want to stay there. Depending on the situation, it took a week to months to mourn some new loss and be able to start my problem-solving activities so that I could accept it as a new part of my reality

Life is a series of beginnings and endings, celebrations and mournings. They bring a seasoning to our lives that protect us from stagnation. They develop our ability to empathize. They remind us that we are all vulnerable and needy and nothing is permanent.

I will mourn again. No lesson that I learned this year will make any new loss easier. The most important lesson I have learned is to let a time to mourn take its time. Don’t hurry it. Don’t prevent it. Let it do its re-shaping work. For when you acknowledge your need to mourn, you understand a little better why Jesus stood at the entrance to the tomb of his dear friend and wept even when he knew there would be a resurrection.

A time to mourn feels like it brings a period, but it doesn’t. It brings a semi-colon. God does not dead-end your life because of loss. His plan always involves life as long as you have breath. Without a time to mourn, you will never know what a miracle that is.

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