. . . NOT letting go of those we love.
One of the advantages to a seminary campus is its library, and we have a fabulous one here. Wandering around this afternoon as I took a little break from the Book of Amos, I cast my eyes over the shelves of new arrivals.
Here's where they landed: Grief: Contemporary Theory and the Practice of Ministry. This looks to be a gem of a little book. I glanced through it and saw that the author breaks down some of our tried-and-not-true and stuck-in-a-rut conventions about grief. The ones that struck me: you have to let go and you have to do it alone.
I think that Melissa Kelley, in a pastoral and professional volume, is urging upon us much of what I've been trying to argue in a personal and experiential way in my blogs. Having witnessed my family's well-intended but mostly inept response to stunning experiences of loss (in another month it will be the 50-year anniversary of my mother's and brother's deaths), and having been urged over the past two years to "let go" of my son, I have concluded that the conventional responses to grief are worthless. They box people into thick-walled prisons of anguish which tend to crack and make way for pain to seep out and poison subsequent circumstances and relationships in the most impossibly defiant kinds of ways.
I think that we have to integrate the losses of our loved ones into our lives, not "let go" of those we love or "get over" those losses. I haven't articulated that concept well -- although I recall saying to someone, within weeks of Josh's death, that I have to figure out how to live with the terrible loss of him -- but I've been trying to act upon it.
Maybe that's why I'm able to be here, writing this exam this week. I'm doing both things at once, grieving my son and living the life to which God has invited me, and I'm able to do them together because I insist that they are both parts of who I am now.
I'm hazarding a guess that with integration comes transformation. At least that's what I'm staking my own life on. And I'm figuring that in a decade or two I can let you know whether I'm right.