Eleven years ago, the Lord started me on an intense journey to learn about grief and mourning. Even though both of my parents passed many years before, I really hadn’t taken the time to learn much about it. There is a small and to me an ignored verse in Ecclesiastes 7:2. It is better to go into the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, For that [day of death] is the end of every man, And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning, Sorrow is better than laughter for when a face is sad (deep in thought) the heart may be happy; because it is growing in wisdom]. The heart of the wise [learns when it is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is [senseless] in the house of pleasure. I lost twelve people this past year. Recently a friend of over forty years joined the heavenly hosts. A blessing for him, but grief for those of us who will miss him here on earth. Once again, as I enter the house of mourning, I choose to learn from its wisdom.
My flesh does not like the house of mourning, but I have learned to embrace it, instead of fighting it. Fighting it does not change it. There is no choice when you enter the house of mourning. It is something that life sends you.
In the house of mourning, you learn that life here on earth has an ending. There will be a time when your life and mine will be over. This is a fact. Unless Jesus returns, we all will die. One of the obvious lessons I’ve learned is not to take this life for granted. It is a gift and how we choose to use it is up to us. It is up to us whether we live a life full of love, forgiveness and generosity. Or choose to live with bitterness, revenge and grudges.
One choice that confronts you in the house of mourning is a time of reflection, which often leads to consider regrets. Do you regret the things you said or did? What about the things you left unsaid? Once you enter the house of mourning for an individual, there is no going back to them. It has been eleven years since my husband suffered a severe stroke and our former life together was no more. He loved a burn pile. The one he used in our house in Connecticut was a distance from our home, but my concern for Lyme disease and ticks kept me from spending time around that fire. I wonder what dreams and discussions we could have had if I had joined him there. I will never know. Small regrets, but so real.
Another lesson learned in the house of mourning is to choose to celebrate life while you have it. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” becomes much more real. Socks on the floor, cupboards left open or dirty dishes on the counter are regulated to “small stuff”. Enjoying the person, rather than worrying about their foibles, becomes much more important.
The house of mourning can become a place of comfort. A time of growing closer to the Comforter as we allow Him to lead and guide us. They become much more than just sentimental words; they take on a fresh reality. When we choose to ask Him to help us navigate grief and loss, He shows up in amazing ways. Sometimes He sends others who come alongside us. Sometimes He just sends His Presence with His peace that passes all understanding, but if we look for Him, we will find Him. One day, a year or two after Darryl’s passing, I ask Him to help me turn my mourning into joy. Psalm 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. I knew it was time, but I didn’t know how to do it on my own. I spent the first year recovering from the exhaustion of caregiving and coming to grips with the reality of my widowhood. It wasn’t a ‘bad’ year, and I definitely had some joyful times (like the birth of a new grandbaby!) but I knew there was more the Holy Spirit wanted to help me with. It was a deliberate and good prayer to pray, which I know He was waiting to for me to ask!
One joy that comes in the house of mourning is when we choose to lean on the Lord and His help we find Him. The house of mourning is not always entered with a death of a person, but it can also come with other type of losses. Loss of friends, marriage or even dreams can cause us to cross into threshold. Another thing I learned is the house of mourning is full of people. Many are there. Many are suffering alone. That is not God’s best plan. It is true a part of grief is very lonely and individualized. This is our opportunity to draw closer to our God. But His Word tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I think the body of Christ needs to get better at both! Entering the house of mourning brings a greater awareness to others who are grieving as well. It is then that we can comfort others with the comfort we have been given.
The house of mourning gives us the opportunity to grow up and grow down. Maturity happens as we grow to understand this facet of life. Digging deep into God’s Word and His promises brings heaven closer. The reality of heaven becomes clearer and dearer. Sometimes we find disappointment in the house of mourning. Disappointment in ourselves and with others. We may discover our weak areas of trust or faith as we struggle with our understanding. Sometimes we are disappointed when others don’t seem to understand our pain or loss. Growth happens when we learn that those around us may not meet our expectations and heal our hurts, but we still choose to love them. Only God really knows how to touch those hurt places in our souls. If we keep pressing on and on, we discover that hurt part of our souls restored. The house of mourning is a place to learn to forgive others and ourselves.
The house of mourning brings an understanding of walking through the shadows of death. It challenges us to not fear any evil that dwells in those shadows. We must learn to silence those dark voices that taunt and torment us about the regrets and actions that are too late to change. We learn to embrace our own need for comforters and forgiveness. Walking as a widow after many years of being a couple, I had to accept and believe that I was enough as a single. This was one of the harder lessons for me to grasp. Our culture values couples. But as I grappled with this lesson in the house of mourning, I learned to accept God’s love for me as an individual in an even greater depth. I understand Paul’s wisdom in the blessing of singleness and the opportunities it gives me.
Friends, I’ve learned a lot in the house of mourning. I know I have even more lessons to learn. Please do not fear it. It is very hard at times, but also joyous. Learning to walk through hard times is difficult, but doable. Let’s help each other by sharing the lessons we each learn in the house of mourning. Grief is easier together.