In abandoning public expressions of grief, we lose opportunities to heal and grow as a community.
I remember the first time I stepped up to a door that had a white slip of paper posted to it. The characters were incomprehensible to me, but my Japanese companion quickly explained that someone in the house had recently passed.
When the door swung open, I offered the obligatory phrase of condolence: goshuushou sama desu. The woman across the threshold nodded her thanks, and we left her with a brief message. I learned something profound about grief in that brief encounter.
Steven Eastmond, a licensed clinical social worker, has written an article titled “The Healing Power of Grief.” He reminds us that grief is a natural, albeit painful, process of life. More importantly, it is a reminder of how much we loved the person who is gone.
Israelite bereavement involved donning sackcloth and sprinkling ashes on the head. By the end of the Israelite week of mourning, the bereaved have had a chance to process their grief, receive comfort from their neighbors, and prepare to reenter daily life.
These customs provide mourners with a physical and public expression of their emotions. In our modern society, we may be losing these traditions. We seem to feel an intrinsic need to hide our grief. While we do our best to put on a brave face, we are really doing ourselves an enormous disservice.
The Book of Mormon teaches that “mourning with those that mourn” is important for healing (Mosiah 18:9). We cannot possibly mourn with each other if our grief is closeted away. When we share our grief with others, we offer them an opportunity to serve us—just as the Savior would.
We must not be ashamed of our grief; instead, we should embrace it as a natural and necessary part of our mortal experience. When we conceal these feelings, we block our path to healing. We may not have customs, traditions, or rituals to signify our grief publicly, but we do have the ability to let others comfort us in our time of need.
Read Steven Eastmond’s thoughts in the Ensign in his article “The Healing Power of Grief” to learn clinical methods for processing grief.
—Caleb Williams, Latter-day Saint Insights
FEATURE IMAGE BY Kulli Kittis
Find more insights
Read what the Doctrine and Covenants has to say about grief.
Read or watch President Thomas S. Monson’s talk “I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee.”