April 9th. The day I lost my father to cancer. He left this world on a Holy Thursday so whenever Easter comes along, I revisit that day and relive the memories.
Grief comes in waves. Contractions come in waves. They both hurt and takes our breath away. In my childbirth class, I encourage the women to not run from the waves but embrace them, each contraction brings them closer to giving birth.
Do we do the same with grief? Do we embrace the waves as they come? Or do we run away?
When Jesus died, Mary was heartbroken. John 20 tells us that she headed for the tomb while it was still dark. When she found the tomb empty she ran to tell Peter and John. After they arrived at the tomb and saw for themselves that it was empty they went back to their homes. Except for Mary.
Verse 12 tells us what Mary did: “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.”
It was in her moment of grief, her lingering there, her creating space and time for her tears that allowed her to have an encounter with the angels and with Jesus.
Grieving is a natural response to loss. Whatever your loss is, even if it may look and feel different for everyone, grieving takes time. It can’t be hurried or forced.
That is not always easy to do in this fast-paced world. The pressure is there to “get over it”, to move on”, to be strong”. One of the hardest things for me when I lost my father was to observe everything else going on as usual while in the midst of my grief. I wished that I could put the world on pause so I could catch my breath and grieve for a bit.
To make matters worse, my husband received an unexpected termination letter the day after we buried my father. It felt like the world was crashing down on me. How do I process this grief, this loss while raising two young children who had lots of questions about where Grampa is and why Daddy isn’t going to work.
There is a Jewish custom called Shiva. “Sitting Shiva” is for a period of 7 days and creates space for individuals to discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others.
In Genesis 50, verse 10, Joseph observed a 7-day mourning period for his father Jacob. They wept, they lamented, they wailed.
Jesus too experienced grief, He also wept. He knows loss. We need to provide space for those who are grieving and we need to make space as Mary did for our own grief and tears. It is in that space I believe that we too have an encounter with Jesus, just as Mary did when she lingered at the tomb.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Although we grieve, we have hope. Resurrection Sunday is proof of that hope. On April 9th, I will remember my Dad and I will continue to hold on to the hope of seeing him again.
If you feel like you are stuck in an intense and constant phase of grief that prevents you from resuming your life, I encourage you to seek professional help, talk to someone. You don’t have to go through this alone.