Monday, June 13, 2011

Mourning With Abandon

One of the benefits of being Portuguese is the ability to grieve with abandon. It is commonly accepted and even expected. This grief does not cause shame on the mourner or an uncomfortable feeling in those nearby as they look for a quick exit. Rather, it draws the onlookers to compassion as they approach and offer comfort. It is reflected in the culture and particularly in the music.

Here is a translation of the lyrics to the fado song “Grito”(The Scream) which is posted above

From the silence, I make a scream
All of my body hurts
Let me cry a little.

From shadow to shadow
There is a heaven…it’s so collected
From shadow to shadow
I have lost my direction

Oh sky!
Here I am without the light
Here I am wiithout a star
I cry more

When I try to follow it
And I,
whom the sun has forgotten
the one the world has lost

I only cry now
Because the dead no longer cry
Even this is always with me

Always as my companion
A deep bitterness
Oh loneliness,
you, who were scorpion

Oh loneliness,
You have bitten the head.
I have already gone far beyond this life already

From what I had already set
I am sorrowful shadow
Leaning against a wall.

Life which is so hard.
Come death which takes so long
Oh, how I hurt
the loneliness is like insanity.

These sentiments are very different from what I have seen at so many "American" funerals where grief is expected to be neat, clean and moderate. You know, the "grieving without smearing my mascara" where people tell you to "be strong" when you are really dying inside. To me, that feels so unnatural and even unhealthy because it is a denial of the truth. It also isolated the mourner and prevents him from getting the support which is so deeply needed.

One of the things that was the most comforting to me was that I was able to give into my grief at my dear friend's recent funeral was that I did not have to put on the “happy or brave or whatever face”, but I could drown myself in the moment without distraction and grieve freely. I will admit to breaking down into a wet ragdoll at the wake service as the casket was closed and several times during the funeral Mass only to find other mourners whom I knew, but were not as close to my friend as I gathered around me and literally giving me their shoulders to cry on. They understood the intensity of our friendship and so also understood the intensity of my grief.

Even a week later, although the pain is decreasing, it is far from gone. Healing takes time and we cannot force it to happen before it’s time, but this grief does not mean that I do not have faith or that I am despairing – it simply means that someone whom I loved is now missing from my earthly life and that causes a pain which is far more than a metaphor. It is the real physical pain of grief. A broken heart is called that because it perfectly describes the physical sensation which accompanies a great loss. This must not be denied.

The song does a good job of describing the feelings of deep and early grief. Those feelings and thoughts which rush to us in the silence - to the point where we want to be alone and quiet even though the silence draws out the pain. We walk in darkness and even though we know that heaven is waiting to recieve our loved ones, we are lost in the darkness and cannot see our way. We know we are in darkness and we are searching for the light. It can feel as though the world has abandoned us and God has forgotten us because we cannot see beyond our own grief. The lonliness never goes away and even when we appear to be going about as usual, the pain and the anger remain. The poison flows through us like the bite of a scorpion and we can lose sight of hope. We long to be with our loved ones again and for the pain to cease and it can truly feel as though we are losing our minds.

However, as Catholics, the story does not end there. As the Scriptures tell us, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (Thess 4:13-14). This hope allows for the time of grief described in the song to pass and for healing to begin. I know that I will see my friend again and we will always have a deep and abiding connection because I will pray for him always and I know that he will be watching out for me from Heaven just as he always did on earth. Even so, a piece of me will be missing until we are together with God.

1 comment:

owenswain said...

A beautiful post. My own recent thoughts on loss and presence are here. Prayers are with you.