Life, recently, has been extremely challenging for many people. Between a pandemic, social issues, isolation, and so much more, it’s started to feel like there’s an increasing weight sitting on all of our shoulders. I know that I haven’t experienced the worst of it and I’m still feeling it, so I can’t imagine the weight on those of you who have been hit hardest by these and other painful circumstances.
I don’t need to tell you all of this. You’re feeling it too. The weight of grief and mourning. Seeing the pain others are in or being in pain yourself. It adds up. And there’s so much of it in the world right now. So instead of pretending that everything’s okay or trying to deal with mourning alone, let’s talk about it – and how mourning can be a gift from God.
Why Do We Need to Mourn?
I’m not a social expert or a therapist, so I can’t give you all the scientific reasons we need to mourn and experience grief. I’m not a religious expert either, but I know a few things.
Mourning, of course, is a process of healing. It’s odd, but processes that help us heal are always uncomfortable and painful. Yet, over time, they prove themselves to be extremely effective. For example, a couple of years ago, I had surgery to remove my gallbladder. It was a quick and fairly non-invasive surgery, but it still left me in pain and discomfort for a few weeks as I found that my movements were limited and my body weakened.
However, despite that pain, I quickly found that my health overall had improved. The pain faded, my body returned to normal function, and I felt better than I had before the surgery. This, of course, was physical pain but the healing process works similarly for emotional, mental, and spiritual pain as well.
In my experience, repentance is another healing process that is often painful and uncomfortable. And yet, anyone who has gone through this process of repentance will agree that the result is overwhelmingly valuable. However, sometimes people back off from repentance because they are afraid of the uncomfortable process required to gain healing.
And this is also true of mourning. It is a challenging and painful process. It takes time. It takes a lot of effort to keep working through it. And the fact is, some people are swallowed up in it and don’t move forward from it.
So what is it that keeps a person moving through the healing process of mourning? Personally, I think that understanding its role in God’s plan helps us to choose to move forward. Understanding principles always seems to make action easier, even when the action seems impossible.
I believe that one of the core purposes of mourning is to turn us to God. It’s easy to slip up, forget God, and focus on other things in our lives. Mourning is one of those things the pushes us to refocus and consider what is most important. It helps us rely on our Savior and His Atonement. And through the process of mourning, we not only heal from our loss and sorrow, but we also strengthen our relationship with God.
That being said, I think it’s also important to remember that mourning as a result of loss is not a punishment. It could be easy to think that, because we aren’t doing as well as we should, God punishes us with a loss to force us back to Him.
Please understand, this is not true. Yes, at times, God will chasten us. He will give us reminders of Him and invite us back to Him. But He never works through force. And He will not take someone from you to punish you.
Loss is a part of life. Losing someone you love, losing a job, etc. are things that will happen whether or not you are straying from God. In fact, being close to God will never protect you from pain and loss. But that does not mean you are being punished.
Elder Christofferson said this:
Challenges are at times an indication of the Lord’s trust in you. He can help you, directly and through others, to deal with what you face.Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Fathers,” 2016
When you’re faced with mourning, consider your perspective of it. Choosing to view your loss and process of mourning as an invitation or a gift from God can help you find the strength to move forward. It’s when you are caught up in the belief that you are being punished or that God doesn’t care that you will feel moving on to be impossible.
God will use these experiences to invite us back to Him. And that does require effort on our part. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma told of a time of war. After finishing the account, he said,
6 And now surely this was a sorrowful day; yea, a time of solemnity, and a time of much fasting and prayer.Alma 28:6
Though Alma acknowledged the pain of the time, he also pointed out that a time of mourning can also be these three things: a time of solemnity, a time of fasting, and a time of prayer.
A Time of Solemnity
Mourning can definitely bring us to a point of seriousness. It invites us to consider our lives – assess our lifestyles, emphasize our relationships, and step away from trivial things. This seriousness involves a choice because we don’t have to change as a result of this thoughtful seriousness. But change is a significant purpose of our lives, and by allowing ourselves to change as we mourn, we are able to move into a new place in our lives where healing is possible.
I find it interesting that a religious ceremony of reverence is also a definition of solemnity because mourning can open a place in our hearts for God to enter. Our efforts to turn to Him and worship Him – both formally and informally – can bring a new level of awareness and change into our process of mourning.
A Time of Fasting
Fasting is the practice of choosing not to eat or drink for up to 24 hours at a time. Left at that, you might wonder why fasting should become a part of your mourning process. When you’re struggling emotionally and mentally, sometimes food can help give you some strength throughout the day.
But that strength is only physical. Fasting, on the other hand, brings a strength that is spiritual.
Fasting is more than avoiding food and drink for a few hours. At its best, it’s an opportunity to squelch certain physical tendencies and overcome them with the spiritual. It’s a chance to turn to God and ask for help while showing Him that you are willing to make sacrifices to be more open to His help.
The process of mourning is actually one of the best times to fast. Because you’re already in a more serious mindset, you may find that fasting while mourning brings greater blessings than you ever expected. You’ll be able to make a deep connection with our Father in Heaven and our Savior because of the pain you’re experiencing and your willingness to sacrifice in spite of it. God will bless you immensely for even this small action.
A Time of Prayer
Prayer is one of the best tools and gifts we’ve been given. And this is even more true when you’re in the process of mourning. Prayer allows you to communicate with God the Father – you can vent all your anger and frustration, beg hope and healing, and express love and gratitude. He’s listening. No matter what you’re saying or feeling, He’s still listening.
Of course, praying doesn’t always equal receiving. But it helps you to understand God’s will even better, especially in those moments when you are weak or suffering. Or in those moments when you feel shattered or utterly alone.
Prayer gives you a way to always turn to someone who loves you. God never changes, and He will never take prayer away from you. So when you’re mourning, pray. Pray for healing, for strength, for assurance. Pray every moment that God crosses your mind. Pray when there’s nothing else you can do.
And you’ll see yourself progress through the process of mourning with God by your side.
Mourn with Those that Mourn
Sometimes, we aren’t the ones who are mourning. When we come across others who are mourning, we can mourn with them as well. From our own experiences with mourning, we can understand how others are feeling. We can recognize that they may feel more alone, or more afraid, or more angry than they ever have before.
And we can step in to help.
There may not be a lot that we can do. But we can listen and love. And you know, from your own experiences, how much listening and love can help.
The Promise of the Son
One last thing – I’ve mentioned a few things that can help us through the process of mourning. But healing won’t truly come until we allow Christ to be an active part of our healing process.
Christ is our Savior. His love is incomparable, and He suffered every pain you’ve ever felt because of that love. He understands you and your pain perfectly. And He’s promised you healing if you will turn to Him.
Christ also brings with Him the promise of restoration. He is the One who can fix the broken and who can recover the lost. If you’re feeling that life has taken too much from you, that you’ve lost so much you can’t keep going – Christ can restore your peace and happiness. He can restore your family. He can restore your purpose.
The fulfillment of these promises doesn’t come overnight. But when you rely on Christ, you rely on these promises He’s made to you, and that hope in His promises will help you keep going, no matter how tough the day.
And someday, you’ll look back on the process of mourning you went through and thank your Father in Heaven for giving you the gift of mourning.