Space for Grief
After walking timidly across the tan industrial carpet, into my initial appointment with my good psychologist, I sat on the proverbial couch and nervously drew breath. After a few initial questions, it didn’t take long to begin unearthing some of the struggles that were weighing heavily on my heart. For various reasons, these heartaches were things I had kept fairly close, hoping, with sincere faith, to manage on my own without burdening or embarrassing others. (My, how times have changed, as I apparently feel comfortable enough these days for anyone to happen across these solemn struggles of my soul). As I verbalized hard experiences, she would say “Wow, that sounds really rough” or “What a struggle for you.” These thoughts were refreshing to my parched soul because they were honest and true. It began to be clear that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel through the experience. You see, in the interest of believing that the Savior can make beauty for ashes, I thought that faith meant that I should ignore the ashes, sweep them under my bed, under the fridge, anywhere, because someday something beautiful would come in their place. My belief was that if I had enough real faith, the process would be immediate. I thought faith meant that the pain should be lessened or completely mitigated and that by feeling the sadness and the loneliness, I was denying the grace offered by heaven. What I didn’t realize was that my soul-squelching pain could indeed coexist with my steadfast faith. I could be completely heartbroken AND also possessed of a firm belief that the Savior was still mindful of me and that my losses would be made up.
I think the Savior teaches this when he meets Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus. He knew, he KNEW, that in moments, they would be reunited with their brother. I imagine there are a lot of reasons that He wept with them, and those few verses are among some of my most treasured bits of knowledge about Him. He was dealing with two separate souls with distinct personalities and struggles. Martha greets him with a faithful expression of her belief that He can work this miracle. They converse about the resurrection and He alludes to the work He is about to perform. At that point Martha retrieves the distraught Mary. The Savior could’ve said, “Hey, don’t worry, I can fix this, dry your tears and let’s go.” But he didn’t. He sat with her in her sorrow. He took in the experience alongside both sisters. He felt the disappointment (had you been here…), he felt the loss. And he let them feel it too. He wasn’t put off by it and he didn’t need them to go elsewhere to manage themselves so that they might present their polished, faithful and smiling faces before He would work His miracle. No, they all descended into the awfulness of grief before they made the ascent out of it together. How did that frame the miracle of Lazarus coming back to life? If the grief had been glossed over or denied a voice or tears, how would those miraculous moments have changed? If He hadn’t respected their individual understanding when it came to Him or life or the resurrection, what would the exchange have looked like? I think the palpable agony of loss and the tears give life to those moments, it makes them real. And I believe the Savior is nothing if not real.