During my chaplaincy training class April 18 – 22, one of the topics we covered extensively was grief and loss. Going into the class I thought I had been pretty well prepared (and ready) for the discussion. But my emotions didn’t quite line up with my lofty expectations, nor did life.
On April 19, my husband’s brother died at the young age of sixty-one. Watching my husband grieve triggered emotions. Then when we had to learn how to make death notification visits to unsuspecting parents, spouses, and surviving relatives, and actually roll play the deliveries, I confessed my insecurities to our instructor. Because of my tenuous emotions, I opted out of playing either the direct notice deliverer or receiving parent. (Twice I “played” the attending policewoman and once the 17-year-old sister of the deceased.) Years ago I would have chastised myself for being weak. No more. I was honest with myself, and the others, and I received a heaping of grace, and peace, in return.
As we sat around discussing how difficult grief and death notice deliveries are, my mind and heart were transported back to when our daughter Victoria died, when I navigated the grief minefield of child death. And I asked the same question in the chaplaincy training class that had nagged my conscience 23 years ago: When did society (at least American society) stop wearing black arm bands or shrouding their windows in black to notify strangers and neighbors that a family member had died and the survivors were suffering? A public notification that all things were not well in their home, and they needed some special attention and consideration. As we say today: “They are not in a good place.” One class member pointed out that years ago when a child died, the mother wore black for the rest of her life. I wouldn’t advocate that, but I do think we expect people to roar right back into life as soon as possible, since we don’t seem to tolerate others’ grief with patience or understanding. And we're not always honest about how we're feeling. We say we're doing "Okay" when we're unraveling mentally, and possibly physically, since grief wreaks havoc on our nerves and immune system.
So, today, I have chosen to reinstitute the old tradition and place a black shroud in my blog’s window. A sign that our family is still grieving, and we are not really in a good place. And I think the best way for us to move toward regaining that good place is to be honest, stop trying so hard to return so quickly to “normal” and, instead, need to lean into the grief. Because in leaning into it, you find a certain measure of peace. A time to rest, reflect and try to make sense of life. Whatever sense you can possibly make of it. At the very least, you lean into God and rest under His wings for a while, until you feel restored enough to remove the shroud.
I do plan to return to our regular study of peace next week, so please rejoin me on May 9.
And thank your for allowing me this public display.