Grief is a thin place. A place so thin, it’s hard to tell where earth ends and heaven begins.
Grief is a place so thin that it’s where the living and the dead feel one another’s love.
I’m the Rev. Lisa Hamilton, and I grieve. First, I’ll read a scripture appointed for today. Then I’ll struggle with those words through the lens of grief. I’m glad you’ve joined me.
Today’s scripture is Psalm 51, verses 11 through 18.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.
Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
So. Much. Advice. When you’re grieving, that’s what you get for Christmas and anniversaries and any time you cry. Advice to exercise. Go back to work. Don’t ever go back to work. There are stages of grief, you know. You need a self-care plan. Smile! You of all people should know he’s in a better place.
It’s as if everyone is a GPS system gone wrong, giving we grievers directions that make U-turns away from the place we must enter: the land of the broken hearts. The thin place of grief. We don’t like this place. It hurts. It’s messy. It gets lonely. But sometimes, it’s only the place where we can know for sure that we still exist.
Please sit with me. Please listen. But please don’t try to fix me. I already know that my heart is broken, that my life is shattered. The power in your just being company is more than you know. Advice really isn’t required.
I have a very fuzzy memory of a hike I took with my son, Ted, during the time he was struggling to become an adult. His on and off drug and alcohol abuse made his journey harder for him, and harder for me to know how to be supportive without enabling. Maybe the hike I’m trying to recall is fuzzy because we took so many hikes over the years. Walking in the woods, with a dog if we could, calmed both of us. Fresh air sort of helped clean anything that was messy in our relationship at that point.
I can’t recall for sure what season it was when we took the hike I want to remember. Maybe it was turning from winter into spring? It was muddy but sunny. And we were both glad we’d taken the time to tromp around in the woods by the time we got back in the car.
I didn’t know why then, and I don’t know why now, but I couldn’t get the key into the ignition. All I could do was sob. I’m not even sure I got any words out, but both Ted and I understood that I wept from worry about him. And he reached across seatbelts to give me a hug and say, “It’s alright to cry, Mom. It’s alright. You’ll feel better. And I want you to feel better. So it’s alright to cry. There’s no hurry. Just cry as long as you need to.”
Now that Ted has passed, there doesn’t seem to be an end to my tears. There doesn’t seem to be an end to advice, either. And there doesn’t seem to be an end to kindness. Eternal kindness of Ted on the other side of the veil, the endless kindness on this side of those who love me on this side of the veil.
I think the lament of grief is this: Help me hold the pieces of my broken heart, but please do not deny me my broken heart. My broken heart is the only heart I have.
Grief is a thin place.