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    leafy twig in the rain

    Joy in the Mourning

    By Stephanie Bennett

    February 26, 2020
    • Karen Beger

      Your article touched the very core of me. Loss is unbearable, and each must take his own time to get through the gnawing pain of it. Thank you for opening the eyes of those who may not have experienced such grief. Once experienced, we can then be open to that same pain in others. We know it for what it is, and can gently support another. I feel your pain, and pray that moments of joy are soon on their way.

    • Ann

      Beautiful. Thank you.

    • Connie Owsley

      We lost our middle Son 13 years ago he was 32 at the time. Then 2 years ago we lost our youngest son and he was 42. They both died from different things. I have lost both my parents, grandparents, and in-laws but nothing prepared me for the loss of my Son’s. Many friends and family thought we should be over these deaths in a few months and were so uncomfortable if we mentioned their names. I was fortunate that I was a counselor and taught grief and loss classes so I knew it was normal to grieve for as long as I needed to. I have had a really hard time since the death of my youngest son and I realized that for a while after our middle son’s death we went to a grief group. So I am going to a grief class next week even though I have probably taught most of what they will say. We have had friends and family say the weirdest things but We have realized they just don’t get it and we hope they never have to experience the pain of losing a child themselves. People mean well but most of the time just don’t know what to say. The thing that hurt me the most is the people I had known for years who would avoid us and act like nothing had happened. The things we needed the most was just a hug, letting us mention our child’s name, letting us share a memory of them, not walking on egg shells around us, accepting that we might grieve for awhile and calling and asking us how we are doing. I am sure you were there more than you think your were and I really appreciated your article. I am not the same person as I was before the loss of my son’s And I am sure your are not either but then how could we be? Thanks again for a needed article.

    What is joy but that tiny flickering flame that lights up the human soul?  It’s something so inexplicable, so hard to describe – yet, as they say, we know it when we see it. Sometimes it appears on the face of a child when she watches a butterfly land on a daisy. Or it sits somewhere deep in our bones when the cries of a long-awaited new babe bring us to tears after a strenuous labor. It’s a funny thing, joy. If we savor it and let ourselves truly feel it we might imagine that nothing could ever be as intensely present, but the fact is, the door of joy opens both ways. When we let the joy in we are hardly aware we have also entered a doorway that leads to the deepest pain one can know when that joy is taken away.

    Four of my friends have walked through the deaths of their only sons in the last few years. I’ve listened to their stories, sat with them to hold space for their sorrow, hugged them tightly, prayed for them, and long observed their ongoing grief. This year I joined them in the loss of my only son as he changed his residence from here to eternity. Although I have had compassion and sent cards or flowers, it took my own loss to understand the depth of grief that all these dear friends experienced. I want to run to them now, to apologize for being so cloddish, so awkward about their grief, so unsteady in my support as they waged the ongoing battle of resuming their lives.

    yellow bird sitting on a leafy twig in the rain

    Photograph by Ray Hennessy (public domain)

    The Psalmist writes that “joy comes in the morning,” but sometimes the morning is a long time in coming. In the meantime, the mourning continues, and it is so deep and hard to look at that the natural thing is to run away from it, tamp it down, and somehow move far away from the dark swamp of loss to find some even footing. But friends, if you have lost a loved one who still leaves a gaping hole in your heart, it’s best not to run away from your feelings. Feel them. Really feel them. No matter how painful, let the tears flow. Tears bring healing when words can’t touch the pain.

    Occasionally, lately, a little bit of joy has been leaking back into my days. It may be just a speck of joy, but it carries the hope of more. Writing about him helps. Talking about him helps. Hugging helps. From time to time I even find myself laughing with a friend and forgetting for a second how much I miss my boy. I’m looking in earnest for the Psalmist’s promise and trusting that these tiny flickers of joy in the mourning will light the way for all of us toward healing.

    Contributed By StephanieBennett

    Stephanie Bennett, PhD, is fellow for student engagement and professor of communication and media ecology at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She is author of several books, including The Poet’s Treasure (Wild Flower Press, 2016), a work of fiction about the future of community.

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