Several years ago a friend I hadn’t seen for some time told me her mother had died. Wendy’s loss was made worse by the feeling that few people understood what she was going through. More than one insensitive friend seemed surprised that she was still grieving a few weeks after her mother’s death. Why the insensitivity?
I don’t think it was a matter of callousness. Wendy has good friends. But perhaps few of them had experienced the death of a loved one. They simply lacked the imagination to understand the depth of her loss.
Listen to how Leslie Allen, the author of A Liturgy of Grief, reflects on his own experience of losing his mother:
“Sixty years ago, after my mother died, I recall the drapes kept firmly closed at the front windows in the daytime, my older brothers wearing black armbands on their coats, and a black tie replacing my school tie for a long time. Now a funeral service may be reduced to an ostensibly more healthy form of a celebration of life. In general, church services can be uncomfortable and unsatisfying for the one who grieves, for these services may reflect an aversion to sorrow that takes no account of the somber realities of life.”1
Perhaps our cultural aversion to grief explains why funerals no longer have dirges—somber songs that give vent to our sorrow and mourning. In his book, a commentary on the book of Lamentations, Allen remarks that the dirge “gave permission for broken piece after broken piece to be picked up and wept over.”2 Perhaps it is time to bring back the dirge, to give ourselves permission to look at the broken pieces of what has happened, weeping over them as we pray and trust God for the peace we seek.
- Leslie C. Allen, A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 5.