A memory of mine that stands out from events surrounding my uncle’s death is from the dinner at my aunt’s house following the funeral. Women from the church had prepared and were serving the meal. I remember, as they quietly moved around the table, that their eyes sometimes welled up with tears. I drew comfort from those tears back then, and the memory still touches me deeply today.
When I was a kid, a common Bible trivia question had to do with which verse in the Bible was the shortest. “Jesus wept” may have gotten a lot of attention for brevity, but it really deserves to be noticed more because it contains great wisdom in how to minister to the grieving. Instead of offering words of comfort to the distraught Mary who was grieving the death of her brother Lazarus (and Jesus surely knew the right thing to say), Jesus affirmed her grief and was with her in it. Jesus wept.
Surrounded by concerned friends after the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis, felt the need for something, but that something wasn’t words. “There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me,” he wrote. “I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
Several years ago, a friend of mine lost her baby in a terrible drowning accident. It is one of my deepest regrets that I didn’t go to her right away. I held back because I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t have answers. I couldn’t explain the whys to her or think of words to lift her out of her despondency. What I know now is that my friend didn’t need me to talk. She needed me to be her friend—to be with her in her grief—to hold her and to weep.
Last week, Frank spent time with another man who lost a loved one in a climbing accident a few years ago. Afterwards, Frank told me it just helped to be in the same room with him.
Grieving, I am learning, isn’t an event. It is a process. Right now I have no idea how long that process lasts. For some, I can imagine, it lasts a lifetime. But perhaps by following Jesus’ example we can find ways to allow the grieving to grieve and to be with them in their sorrow.