CAUTION: This blog post will be sensitive in nature. We'll explore death and dying and how the grief process can work. (Or doesn't)
The one certainty of life is we all die. Pain and grief that follow death are the most difficult things we have to endure in this life. Grief and bereavement that follow a death are a natural expression of one trying to deal with loss. Sadness, anger, and many other emotions swirl together to create a dark cloud that for some folks never clears. My experience with death of family and friends has never been affected by murder and or gun violence. I grieve for folks who have felt this kind of inexpressable pain. Death in any form is never welcomed, but death by senseless violence carries with it many more complicated levels of paralyzing pain, sorrow, and suffering.
Yesterday I read of the decision to cover over a mural at the Newtown school in Sandy Hook Connecticut. The pall that hangs over that community will never go away. The mural, offered by a painter, was designed to help the healing process. Unfortunately, there were people in opposition to the mural, stating more pain and suffering were being brought forward by the painting. In wanting to forget the tragedy, many believed the mural was keeping the painful wounds open and raw.
I wondered about our culture that lives or tries to live in a fairy tale land where nothing bad ever happens or in the minds of many who believe bad should never happen. How do we deal with shootings and murder? How do we deal with fiery automobile deaths and infants who die too soon?
There is no pat answer to these questions and for me to pass judgement on folks who have to deal with horrific consequences is wrong. However, I believe the grieving process does need to occur with no designed end. The journey through grief and sadness meanders through many darkened valleys and contains twists and turns. Insulating ourselves and loved ones from the reality of death may carry more severe after affects than the actual death. We can become trapped in a prison of pain and grief and never find our way out. In our life, there must be the glimmer of hope; without it, there is no reason to heal from grief and move forward.
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of
an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will
be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with
immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with
immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power
of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:51-57, NIV)
From the moment one exhales for the last time, those left behind are faced with a new normal. Nothing makes sense and questions abound. Avoiding grief and sweeping it under a carpet of denial can be dangerous and lead to larger issues down the road. The decision to remove a piece of healing from the school in Connecticut appears to short circuit a built in means to help people find hope and purpose beyond their excruciating pain.
Consider the local funeral home. Every facet of the family time with the funeral director, the viewing, and funeral all are important parts of the grieving process. Graveside services play an integral part in helping folks continue the grief journey. Pastoral care from that day forward and the love and care of a faith community add to the healing process. Strangely enough, monuments, murals, and other momentos actually help those left behind deal with their loss. Think about all the memorials across our country. (Vietnam, WWI, WWII, Korean, Columbine, Pentagon, Ground Zero, etc....) They all remind us of our loss and mortality and offer hope. They remind us to be more vigilant and to never give into hate and prejudice. These reminders are helpful to us who have faith in God as He provides healing in our greatest time of need.
Once again, add Newtown Connecticut to your prayer list. I will be praying they reconsider their attempt to sanitize and sterilize the healing process for their families and townfolk.