Does God cry? Mindfulness and the grieving process
by Richard H H Johnston
As I sit in my office the wind and rain patter and whistle against the windows. Many droplets sit motionless on the pane but the wind causes others to trickle down the glass like tears falling from the face of God. I watch as random droplets merge and flow down. And I ponder the heart of God towards those who grieve.
Grief is common to us all. Never an invited guest or one who’s presence we covet; an inevitable but unwelcome companion at various points on the journey. It may be that we would rather push grief away, pretend it’s not there, run headlong into the rush and activities of life to avoid facing up to bereavement or loss - a coping mechanism that no-one should be condemned for employing. It’s easy to be scared by our own feelings. Too raw, too overwhelming, assumed to be a sign of weakness instead of strength.
Last month my Great Aunt died. A kind and cheery soul, Auntie Meg was a great person to be around. She had the ability to leave you with a warm afterglow because you felt that she really cared for you and enjoyed being with other people. The day of Auntie Meg’s funeral is imprinted on my mind. Early that morning my Mum, Dad and I collected my 95 year old Grandma (sister of Meg) and we began a journey from Aberdeen, Scotland into Aberdeenshire towards the town of my Mother’s childhood.
It was a cold wintry day as we drove by snow covered fields. The air was cold and damp and the sky was overcast and grey. The white of snow clung to the forest trees as we meandered through narrow roads. After the funeral service a stream of cars followed the hearse which carried my Auntie Meg on her final journey. Thirty-four miles of slow and windy roads, a wintry scene, but the sky was now clear and bright.
On this sad and winding road that seemed to last for many hours my Grandma came quickly to realise and voice her own thoughts and feelings that one day soon this would be the road she would travel on her final journey. In that moment all we could do was be there together. The poignancy and pain struck us all as we drove in silence together.
On arrival at Crathie we lowered the coffin into its final resting place and committed Auntie Meg into the hands of God. The afternoon had been dry and clear but as many bodies stepped out of cars, winter coats zipped up and buttoned tight, the snow came on sudden and heavy. The sky had filled with clouds and the air was thick with winter. Gathered round the graveside the weather worsened for a moment, until the final prayer of committal had been prayed. Only then did the heavy snow subside and within minutes the sky began to clear again.
There are those moments in life when everything slows down and moments feel frozen in time. The heaviness of grief and sadness feels too much to bear and we grind to a halt. But life does go on whether we want it to or not, and weather patterns eventually come and go. Facing our grief and loss with mindful awareness does not necessarily lessen the pain or sense of loss. But it can help us to avoid being sucked into hopelessness and despair when we do feel overwhelmed and submerged by the dark and heavy weather overhead. We can hold and observe our honest thoughts and feelings with kindness and compassion knowing that Christ is with us in that moment and he knows what it is to face the dark storms of life and death.
On Good Friday dark and heavy clouds enveloped Jesus. But that was not his final destination. He came through to the other side. And he gently beckons us onwards together.
When we are ready we can give ourselves permission to accept and receive comfort in this present moment. This can be experienced in the midst of grief and loss, not as a means of escape or avoidance. When we are ready we can experience the heart of God towards us personally. Christian faith looks to “the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3). He is the God who is with us in every moment. We are invited to walk with Him and know his heart towards us in every stage of the journey, whatever the weather may be.
If for now you feel too angry, sad or grief stricken, wait and watch. Be mindful of your honest thoughts and feelings. Be mindful that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.
Richard H H Johnston
Director, Christian Mindfulness
The Online Christian Mindfulness course includes an exploration of how mindfulness practices can help us move through the grieving process. See here.