I woke up annoyed at the dog for prodding me with her cold nose. I became further annoyed at the archaic practice of daylight savings time that cost me an hour of sleep. Annoyed that I’d forgotten to get the coffee pot ready the night before. Annoyed that it was cold outside and especially annoyed that my Ramona was taking her sweet time finding the right spot in the grass.
Then, a sudden gust shook a wind chime, which sounded like a gong, a call to prayer. That’s when I realized what I was really feeling underneath the irritation.
I was sad.
Three young people in the larger community had died in a little over a week. While not members of the church I serve, these losses were deeply felt by people I love.
But while I saw the grief in others, I had not processed how deeply these losses had pierced my own heart.
I walked a long way that morning. Walking made Ramona happy. I thought about my favorite parenting guru, Becky Kennedy — a clinical psychologist, author and Instagram influencer. Earlier that week, she had a podcast about DFKs — “deeply feeling kids.” It was helpful to learn her recommendation to go beyond the well-intentioned advice about naming the feeling — “I see you’re feeling sad, Andrew” — to imagining a size for it. For instance, does your sadness feel as big as a house, as big as a church, as big as the whole neighborhood?
That morning, my sadness reached the stars. And I cried.
On the cover of Heather Christle’s The Crying Book is a drawing of two eyes with a waterfall of large tears cascading down the page. Pictured inside the tears is the starry sky.
Typing out Christle’s last name means that I write Christ, and I think of how Jesus wept at the death of his friend. The crowd exclaimed, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36). It is tempting to read ahead to the raising of Lazarus and to the resurrection of Jesus. Comforting to think of “death swallowed up in victory” and the time when God shall wipe away every tear (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4). I take to heart the psalmist’s promise that “there shall be joy in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
And I don’t want to miss how the same psalm makes it clear that “weeping endures for the night.” Heather Christle wrote, “They say perhaps we cry when language fails, when words can no longer adequately convey our hurt.” Sadness can feel sky-high. Yet, the Holy One, who stretched the heavens, walks with us. I believe our sadness for others in their death and grieving is an act of love. Those tears are holy.