A driver’s license had to be the next best thing to wings. As my sixteenth birthday drew near, I feared something would keep me from getting mine. My birthday fell on a Sunday delaying my dream one whole day. With my license finally in hand, I didn’t think anything could quell my joy. I was wrong.
My smart parents didn’t want me to have to choose between being safe and looking cool so they gave me prescription sunglasses for my birthday. Daddy parked at a drugstore on the way home from taking me to pick them up. He dropped the bomb before heading into the store. “Your mama’s biopsy came back malignant—metastasized breast cancer.”
I was glad we’d picked up my dark glasses before he punched me with the news. At least I looked like I was following our family’s unwritten rule to keep emotions light. We buried Mama on Mother’s Day weekend of my senior year in high school.
What do you do with grief when you’re supposed to keep your emotions under wraps? We acted like everything was fine. TV replaced Mama’s conversation at our evening meals.
After dinner, Daddy retreated into our living room. He sat in the dark hoping the music of Hello Dolly and Paint Your Wagon muffled the sounds of his broken heart. My own sorrow leaked out on my pillow at night.
Losing Mama affected us in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Now I see that our family’s stiff upper lip mentality didn’t help us navigate our loss.
An old proverb says, “Grief shared is halved; joy shared is doubled.” In our desire to be strong for each other, we unwittingly prolonged our pain. Being able to process and share our losses with someone we trust doesn’t make the pain go away, but it helps. And if emotions spill out in the sharing, that’s okay too. Tears are emotionally and physiologically beneficial.
It takes courage to be honest about our pain and let someone into our tender areas. Some caring people don’t handle pain well. They jab our wounds with pat answers and spiritual platitudes, which feels as good as poking an open wound with a bony finger.
But stuffing pain doesn’t work either. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NIV). When we’re honest with God, a trusted friend, and ourselves, we experience comfort in our pain. We also experience closeness.
Jesus is the friend who truly understands our losses. Deep emotions don’t offend Him. He wailed over Jerusalem and sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Invite Him in to your pain.
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Debbie W. Wilson