Finding Freedom in Mourning

This Wednesday, May 29, will be the second-year anniversary of my father’s death.

On the day that he died, I flew into a writing frenzy as my creative energy flowed freely, producing a sense of healing peace amidst chaos. While I will not include the entirety of what I wrote that day in expressing my grief, I will include a small portion of it here:

Dad was a very tenacious man, persevering through whatever life presented him. Yet, he loved to tease and laugh, revealing a very playful side, and no one in the family was immune to his fun. For instance, when Veronica was sixteen, she really wanted a car. On Christmas Eve, Dad entered the house with a HUGE box for his oldest daughter with all kinds of little boxes inside of it. He watched with a smile on his face as his children walked around the box and Veronica pulled out box after box, wondering what had Dad bought her. Finally, Veronica found her gift: A pink and white plastic dune buggy that was approximately 5-6 inches in length. He announced that she had her car! He had surprised us!

It seems in my recollection that things changed after that Christmas: Could we surprise Dad? Could we be as unpredictable as Dad was? It seemed the gauntlet had been thrown down.

A few months later, I wrote a poem that I included in the pocket of one of his shirts that was made into a pillow:

Ode to Dad’s Western Shirt

Here is a western shirt of yours, Dad.

It has:

    A yoke to define it;

    Snaps to quickly remove it;

    And 2 pockets to house 2 phones.

This western shirt of yours, Dad, is

    A large,

 to fit your rugged frame

    A polyester blend,

the unruly wrinkles to tame.

It was worn with:

    Cowboy boots for accent;

    Boot-cut jeans for town;

    A tie to dress it up for Sunday;

    And a cowboy hat for your crown.

Here is a western shirt of yours, Dad,

    which holds loving memories of you.

My reason for sharing my experience is to illustrate one simple characteristic about me: Writing is healing for me.

This is not anything new. If you were to inquire of many bloggers, they too would readily admit that writing is like medicine to the soul. It assuages their inner being.

Writing becomes an action that assists me in expressing pain and questions, which moves me towards insight and healing. However, since this may not be true for you, what is?

What engenders healing transformation in you?

I ask this question because sometimes we become bogged down in our grief journey when we compare ourselves with others, believing that a grief journey is like a science formula or a cooking recipe: Follow the order exactly to receive the best results. However, a grief journey is not about following step-by-step directions. The expression of your grief is just that: your loss, your grief, your expression. Some may find expression through exercise in the form of hiking or walking while others are helped through cooking or sewing. Some turn to music, such as listening to, playing, or writing it, while others draw strength from prayer or reading holy scriptures. Consider the television show NCIS. I suspect that LeRoy Jethro Gibbs builds boats as his avenue for healing from his many losses, including the murder of his wife and daughter as well as his three divorces.

So let me ask you again: What is the avenue that generates healing, affecting wholeness in you?

It is unfortunate that many of us utilize others as a yardstick. We compare ourselves to each other, and in so doing, we stifle ourselves, which may induce more wounding. Comparing ourselves to others may cause us to enter into a spiral of shame. As a creative person, I tend to become wrapped up in comparing myself with others and what others may be thinking, which results in feeling shame, the sense I am not good enough. In this way, I identify with television’s Adrian Monk’s words, “Creativity is a gift . . . and a curse” (smile).

Despite being aware of this, I am plagued by comparison, and maybe you are too. Perhaps, it is uncertainty that nurtures our tendency to compare: the more unpredictable life is, the more we compare, searching for some sort of stability or normalcy. Is it any wonder that when we travel the topsy-turvy journey of grief, we may find ourselves thinking, “I must not be grieving right because I am not as far along in my journey as they are”? Or maybe we find ourselves thinking about others, “They are not doing it right because they are not grieving like me.” We may take into ourselves such messages as:

  • If you are not over his death in a year, there is something wrong;
  • You should immediately get rid of all her belongings. Move on;
  • You should keep busy. Don’t dwell on it;
  • What you need is a change of scenery, so why don’t you travel? Or move?

Then there is the stage-theory that places grief on a particular trajectory, dictating what the griever should be experiencing next: denial; anger; depression; bargaining; and acceptance. By the way, this was not the intention of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who formed this theory when she interviewed people who were dying.

Granted, there are ways that are healthier than others. That is, there are certain markers on one’s journey that indicate if we are generally headed in a healing direction. There are some who experience complicated mourning. For instance, some grievers do not begin embarking on their journey; others stop in the middle of it; or still others are sidetracked by other paths. But this is not the focus of this blog. Instead, I am centering on mourning that is not complicated, a grief journey that contains certain common indicators.

If you were to ask me, I would tell you that I believe that life is a series of losses, which we must navigate. At every stage of life development, there is a loss even in the midst of celebration. As such, we are usually implicitly and/or explicitly grieving. Thus, writing is my avenue of mourning those losses. That is, I am publicly expressing my inward grief through blogging, resulting in movement towards wholeness.

This is the reason I have selected the name One Pentecostal’s Journey, as I am, like you, on a journey towards healing and wholeness.

As openly declared in the title, I am a pentecostal, and as such, I believe that healing is provided in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. When I say healing, I am referring to all aspects: physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual. As pentecostals, we take our belief in healing seriously. Like other theologies, our theology is lived out in our actions. This means that our theology of healing is an action. We pray for our bodies. We place our hands on others while we are praying for them. We also anoint each other with oil as we bring the other’s requests to God.

But there is another aspect of pentecostalism that is also important for this blog. While Jesus Christ is the center of our theology, our theology also highlights the ministry of the Holy Spirit; thus, it is said that pentecostals embrace a Spirit Christology. This emphasis on the Spirit points to movement. Wolfgang Vondey aptly uses the metaphor of play.[1] Think about this word “play” for a moment. What images come your mind? Is not play freeing and renewing while being unpredictable? And this is precisely the movement of the Spirit for pentecostals. We expect the unexpected. That is to say, if we have an expectation in our theology, it is the unexpected actions of the Spirit.

Since I hold dearly to moving towards healing and the moving of the Spirit, I believe that the Spirit is not limited in the kinds of avenues that are used to renew and heal us. Like play, there is freedom and renewal in the healing ways of the Spirit. And for me . . . it is writing. For me, writing is about claiming, embracing, and living into my own voice—to be the person that the Spirit intends. This is the manner in which I reflect the imago Dei through my being. Writing is the doing that flows from my being in which there is not shame but freedom and healing.

This blog, then, is an invitation . . . an invitation to find your freedom in mourning.

Maybe you could say this blog is an invitation to be pentecostalic (yes, I shamelessly made that up). It is an invitation to play in your grief journey. To find freedom to mourn that flows from your being. And if you are a Christ-follower, it is an invitation to move with the Spirit who knows you and seeks to minister healing to you in ways that are freeing and renewing.

 

[1] Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2017), Kindle edition, 12-14.

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