The Passion of Grieving
At the close of the graveside service, the three-year-old boy walked up to and, for a moment, stood quietly at his grandmother’s knee. Tommy had been patient with things that adults seem to need to do at the burial of a deeply loved person. His great uncle Rob had died suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep. Tommy knew things were different, that things were not like they had been.
Now he reached out with his small hand, one finger pointing up at his grandmother.
“Where is Rob?” he asked. “I want Rob right now.”
Everyone was silent for a moment and then several people, including his grandmother, attempted to placate Tommy: “Your uncle
Rob is in heaven now. He is watching over you.” Another said, “One day, we will all go to heaven and get to see and be with your uncle Rob.”
Tommy took a moment to do whatever three year olds do, and then he raised his outstretched hand with finger pointing at the adults and pronounced emphatically: “I want Rob here right now! We need to watch Power Rangers soon. Get Rob now! I want Rob here now!”
This is the passion of grieving. Tears have been shed. Sadness abounds.
But for this three-year-old, reality needs to happen now. Tommy was being truthful. Tommy was demanding a resurrection, a new reality. Tommy wanted Uncle Rob to show up—right now!
Years ago, a familiar, well-loved 51-year-old woman died. With deep honesty, the family struggled in their faith. Calm assurances were given and accepted by the extended family.
Yet it was obvious that for many of us sadness was only the beginning of our feelings. Some of us acknowledged our confusion and anger.
At the graveside, I remember quoting Paul who writes in I Corinthians 15: “Hey! I’m telling you a mystery. . . we shall all be changed, we shall be changed.”
Then I added, “I am angry about my friend’s dying. I am very sad. I will miss her. Our sadness is only beginning. Yet God weeps with us. This is our hope.”
As these words were spoken, the heavens opened and the rain poured upon the earth. The rain beat against the windows and on the tin roof. We stopped all human speech and listened in the silence.
This is the passion of grieving. Tears are shed. Sadness is intermingled with anger. Persons want a new reality to happen now.
People demand that God be present. The witnesses wait for God to pour down tears of sadness and support.
Rockingham County native Elaine H. McGann is an ordained Brethren minister and a licensed clinical psychologist. She lives near Hinton.