The Brutal Blessing of Grief
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4 (NRSV)
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of being chastised for crying too hard the night my grandmother died. The person who shushed me was grieving deeply himself and simply didn’t have the patience for my noisy lamentation. Besides, it was the eighties, an era in which children’s emotions were not assiduously validated.
Still, it’s not a good memory. It’s a bad one. And it’s made me incredibly—well, incredibly assiduous about the way I parent my children through grief.
Francis Weller writes that grief is “an act of protest against living numb and small.” I believe this. We’ve grieved a cat, a dog, a former babysitter who died far too young, and a close family friend we all cherished as a sort of bonus (grand)father. Each loss has riven the hearts of my children, albeit in varying degrees. Each loss has riven my own heart, in part because of my own sorrow and in part because my sorrow swells exponentially when I bear witness to theirs.
I do not hide my tears from my children, and I do not tell them when it’s time to cease weeping. We hold one another and cry as often and as long as we must. Mourning teaches them to access the full range of human emotion, teaches them to take up space and reach out for help and fit an expansive heart into a yet-small body.
I’d rather not mourn in the first place. I’d do anything to save my children from the agony of grief. But the beatitude is true. It’s a brutal blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.
Jesus, you wept in the face of loss. Draw near to us when we weep, and give us the grace to comfort one another.
Katherine Willis Pershey contributed this devotional to Hard and Holy, a collection of devotionals to support parents across the holy, Lego-covered ground of parenting. Order Hard and Holy as a gift to yourself or a parent you know today.