On Grief & Mourning

The last few years have taken something from all of us.  Some of us are bereaved and going through the stages of grief.  But all of us are at some stage of mourning.  It took my wife, the mental health counselor, to tell me that there is a difference. Grief is physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.  Mourning is cultural.  Depending on the community one belongs to, mourning can look very different.

But since most of us, who are reading this article, claim at least some connection to the Christian community, I will make the audacious assumption that we all share something in common when it comes to this business of mourning.

Our shared faith in Christ, while it does not insulate us against grief, does reshape how we process and move through it in our mourning.  Our shared faith, our traditions, our rituals, and our ceremony, set us apart from many of our neighbors.  I will not suppose that it makes us better or worse than anyone else, but I will propose that we are different, and we can be confident in our differences, while offering as a gift to our neighbors a different lens through which we may all learn to process our griefs.

Without morbidity, and at a time set aside to celebrate the lives of the saints – All Saint’s Day is upon us, we realize that the crux of our faith aims at encouraging and equipping us to deal with loss and the final enemy of what is living and good – even death!

In famous gospel song “Because of Calvary”, John P. Kee’s New Life Community Choir has often sung me happy with the reminder that it is only because of Calvary, that we have victory.  For me, the song signifies that the most important element of the Incarnation lies in our declaration of the Gospel – the grand story – that reminds us that Jesus came, that Jesus died, but also that He passed through the grave only to take the keys from sin, death, and hell.  Death was swallowed in His victory, and the sting was snatched from sin so that we may live confidently and fearlessly in the face of loss and death.  He lives, He lives forevermore, and He lives in you and me – He lives in us as we abide together in His beloved community.

Frederick Buechner would say that the Resurrection is our reminder that the “worst things are not the last things…”  These are not easy words, but they are Truth, so that our mourning – no matter how protracted – must be punctuated with this hopeful tone.  These are not easy words, but they are Truth, and they must be the crimson tint that rose-colors our glasses.  These are not easy words, but they are the Truth, and they must be the words we whisper to one another when life seems to be at its worst.  These are not easy words.  These are not flippant words, but they are Truth. These are not words that dismiss the pervasive and pernicious suffering that humanity endures, but these words are Truth.  These words are our steady and hopeful reminder of the living hope we possess through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The last few years have taken much from us. Some of us are bereaved and doing our best to work through the stages of grief.  Grief is physical, psychological, and spiritual.  Mourning is cultural. But since we are all members of this shared, broad, and Christian community, let’s recall and often repeat this binding Truth that reminds us of the hope that possesses us amid life’s darkest moments.

Family, I’m writing these words to you even as I am processing my own grief.  Don’t mistake my hope for callousness or sunny-eyed optimism.  I regularly vacillate between joy and sorrow as I stare down perhaps one of the greatest losses of my entire life.  But these words I share, have often cheered my spirit and given me peace.  Receive them according to my intentions and pardon any clumsiness.


to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

[1]xto give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

[2]ythe oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; [3]


God bless you, and I love you all.



[1]x ver. 10; [ch. 28:5]

[2]y Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 61:3.

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