Grief: deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.
Mourning: the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died, typically involving following certain conventions such as wearing black clothes.
It’s a dance. Finding joy in the grief. One moment you’re grieving a loss only to find joy in the next moment. There is no balance to be found.
“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” Ecclesiastes 3:4
I don’t think there is a timeline to grief. Psychology tells us there are stages of grief. But what they don’t tell us is how long each stage may last or how it will affect you. Even how it will affect you physically.
At some point, though, the mourning shifts to acceptance and eventually the grief and joy blend together. You think you are past the grief when suddenly you feel the weight of loss yet it quickly mingles with a memory that makes you smile and maybe even laugh.
In my mind it’s like an impressionist painting. Edges of one area so soft they blur into the next.
I was driving home from work thinking about something my sister-in-law said about our mother-in-law a couple of days before. My mother-in-law loved the sun. It made me think of that characteristic of my mother-in-law I see in my sister-in-law who also loves the sun. And when I started thinking about it more I could see characteristics of my mother-in-law in each of us who married her three sons. I see her in each of her three sons and her six grandchildren.
Grief and joy blending together. Grace.
No, grief isn’t linear. No date on the calendar will mark each stage or tell you when you can move on to the next stage in the grieving process. You may even find yourself falling back to a previous stage. And that’s okay. I think the grief will always be there whether fifteen months or twenty-five years after you lose someone.
Eventually though the mourning melds into melancholy and if we allow it, grace brings those moments where grief blends with joy. Moments where you see traces of your loved one. And you can smile and laugh through the tears. A time where weeping, laughing, mourning and dancing appear all at once.
Grief. Joy. Grace.