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Grief and Mourning

"Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life." Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Grief is a universal human experience and is what we feel when we’ve suffered a loss. I’ve recently discovered that a critical part of the grieving process is the willingness to mourn. Mourning is what we do in grief. It’s grief gone public. Everyone grieves, but not everyone mourns. The need for mourning requires us to embrace the pain of our loss – something we naturally don’t want to do. It is easier to avoid, repress, or deny the pain of grief than to confront it, yet in facing our pain, we learn to reconcile ourselves to it. Each loss and experience of grief is unique, yet we do well to learn from one another in this shared emotion. This is particularly true during a pandemic when we are each facing loss, some more deeply than others.

Many excellent books explore grief and mourning. I recently borrowed the audiobook "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion. Her other work was unfamiliar to me, but the title caught my attention. The book outlines the year following the death of Didion’s husband. The act of writing - her form of mourning - helped her process her grief, but I believe it also functions as a gift to her readers: her approach is relational and allows each of us to connect with pieces of her story.

There are many other titles on grief that I have benefitted from over the years, and I am open to sharing them. I suspect you have your recommendations as well; I would love to hear from you. May God watch over us in our grieving and mourning, that we may experience the connective and restorative power of the Holy Spirit.


Fr. Paul

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