“Grief” by William Klein
I want to address some things that friends are encountering as they grieve.
The system is rigged! We need each other. This is especially true in the act of grieving the loss of a parent. The psychological implications of losing a parent are potent and can leave us paralyzed in sadness. The person who nurtured us, cultivated who we are, and helped us grow into fully functioning human beings is gone. We need to cultivate healthy relationships in order to understand who we are and how we relate to the world. A parent’s job is to teach us; to help us establish our moral universe and help us to fully function as active participants in society. A parent guides us through life until we can stand on our own two feet and learn to walk. When that support is taken from us, it is hard to replace.
A few years ago I was helping a friend grieve the loss of his only parent. I was helping him process his profound emptiness in his heart. “It’s strange,” he said, “it’s like I’m an orphan.” In fact, he was an orphan and this is a keen observation with meaning. I could fully relate to this when I lost my parents, as I come from a close family where my parents were fully engaged in my life and the life of my family.
I lost my father in October of 2013 and my mother followed just forty-five days later in November of the same year. When I lost my mother, I was adrift on the sea of grief. I thought my mother would be there for me to help me grieve my father, but as it turned out it was her time to make her transition to be with my father. My father died from Alzheimer’s. Two weeks before he passed my mother was diagnosed with cancer of the spine. She’d been in remission for the last five years, so we were sad when we learned the cancer had returned. It was a tumultuous time for my family and we leaned on one another for support.
Were it not for my faith and cultivating relationships that helped me through it, I don’t know what I would’ve done. The relationships of family are critical in such dire times. Unfortunately, some people don’t have close ties to family members. They need to look outside the typical nuclear family for support to overcome hardship. The cultivation of relationships is critical for our own ability to rise above our hardships. Community is critical to the well being of an individual. The Bible addresses the importance of this issue in a powerful way.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ family comes to visit him:
Mark 3:31-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The True Kindred of Jesus
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters[a]are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Examining this passage closer, Jesus implies that there is a greater family out there that he is serving and vice versa. He recognizes the power of community in allowing an individual to participate in society. A community has formed around Jesus and he attends to the needs of those who sit before him. This act of opening your heart to others reminds us that when our family members pass away there are others to serve on their behalf.
Mindful of the fact that no one can take the place of a parent or replace the one you love, the people we adopt as part of our spiritual family can serve in roles that have been lost. These individuals can help us grow through our pain and suffering, and help us gain valuable perspective in coping with loss. They can give us stability in an otherwise confusing, disorienting and painful time.
What are some steps we can take to help us overcome grief?
- Be honest about your grief.
- Reach out to others and share our grief.
- Join spiritual communities to gain an important perspective about our spirituality.
- Cultivate mentors. Be a mentor and seek out our own mentors.
What have you done in your life to reach out to others after the loss of a parent?