'Christians shouldn't grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope', wrote the apostle Paul. In fact, much of the Bible talks about this hope. So I guess it is understandable that every Christian book I own on the topic briefly skims over the anguishing pain of grief and try to focus my hope on eternal life.
But I don't think grieving is easier for Christians.
Will I be comforted during this Easter season? This year our life suddenly took a detour. We found ourselves grieving deeply, again. (Editor – Daniel & Danielle lost their third in still-birth before Easter, as they did their first). And then Easter came.
In terms of seasons, it's comforting to grieve at this time of year. Autumn has arrived. After an insufferably hot Queensland summer the days are getting cooler, darker. But our house is in utter chaos right now, so much so that I can't find warm clothes. So I just walk around my house cold, chilled.
And Easter time means it is also school holidays. I'm thankful I don't have to take my toddler to Kindyroo and sing 'the happy song'. I take my daughter to an empty school playground instead of visiting populated public ones, where I might run into babies or little boys or someone I know. C. S Lewis was wise when he wrote 'perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers'. For now, the Easter holidays assist me to isolate myself from others.
But the Easter season mocks grief too. I try so hard to be tempted by Easter eggs and warm hot cross buns smothered in butter, or anything really, that's not coffee or wine. But I'm not. We do buy Easter eggs. A golden bunny and a little crÃ¨me filled egg. But even as we're paying for them, I hypothesise that we won't eat them. The eggs will turn white and flaky and lose their chocolate taste and I'll have to throw them away.
When in the depth of sorrow nothing feels good. Easter is a time to enjoy family. But I don't enjoy my family. My toddler is delightful when she gets dollars and time mixed up. She charges me 'two minutes' for the banana she sells me at her pretend shop. In these adorable moments my heart doesn't flutter any more, instead I panic. I panic I'll lose her too. Grief has a way of stealing innocence and optimism and generating paralysing fear. Now death threatens every trip to the beach, every bike ride, every car trip on the busy highway. I worry even in my sleep.
I spend the Easter long weekend reading books on grief and memoirs penned by grieving parents. Page after page I come across Bible verses and wonderful theology concerning the bodily resurrection.
Rejoice in eschatological hope,
Read Job and Revelation and the Psalms; doing these things will help me.
But I'm not very good at doing these things. Right now, when one day feels like eternity, the bodily resurrection seems too far away; I am not excited about heaven. Unlike me, I know some bereaved parents who get incredible comfort from focusing on heaven. But I don't, yet. And that almost makes me feel guilty.
'Do not short cut the grieving process,' a grief counsellor warns us. One evening my husband reminds me that Jesus also experienced overwhelming, terrifying, painful grief. Jesus was a man of sorrows. And even though Jesus had more insight into Christian eschatology than the rest of us, he was still overcome with grief when his friend Lazarus died and on that dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane. That image of Jesus crying in Gethsemane, is one of a very few comforting thoughts for me at this point.
My family Goes to Church
Then there is going to church at Easter time. There's a church near us that is serving pancakes and coffee the morning of Good Friday. It's not our usual church. As my family goes to church I stay home and do pilates. They come home after two hours. Our toddler tells me the church was great because she made a friend called Emma and ate cream.
My Husband comes home miserable. He feels confused. The service is orthodox and nice. But the crux of the Easter message my husband heard, which is really the crux of Christianity, was forgiveness is all that humanity needs; forgiveness makes everything okay.
'I told you not to go' I say. But my criticism doesn't help us. We sit together feeling cold. Forgiveness does not make everything okay. Forgiveness is neither what we want nor need. We need comfort.
I go to Church
I go to church that afternoon. It was our usual church, with the usual good message, and nice people. On Easter Sunday we decide to go to an Easter production at a big church in our city. I want to do something, so I go. And there'll be dancing and music to delight our daughter; plus I'm too sore to do more pilates.
I think we're the only ones to walk out of the production. It really is a commendable production. There's a performance of the little drummer boy, a scene where Mary dips her hands into red paint and slides them down an old rugged cross, as her body wilts to the ground. There's a song about Jesus' blood having power. Many of the ladies sitting around us are crying.
Then it goes dark. There's a smoke machine in full swing. A man using a deep (godly) voice reads out Zechariah 12:10. 'They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a first-born son'. I cry. But it's not for Jesus. A child dying is sadder.
I don't think grieving is any easier for Christians. We do have a sorrowful saviour and wonderful hope. But right now, it's what Judyth Hill's poem, 'Wage Peace', recommends that helps me the most: 'Learn to knit, and make a hat'.
Danielle and Daniel Stott are Bible College graduates who live on the Gold Coast. Daniel is training to be a teacher and Danielle is caring for their toddler daughter.
Danielle and Daniel's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/d-and-d-stott.html