Henri Nouwen on Mourning Your Losses

“The question is not whether you have experienced loss, but rather how you live your losses. Are you hiding them? Are you pretending they aren’t real? Are you refusing to share them with your fellow travelers? Are you trying to convince yourself that your losses are little compared with your gains? Are you blaming someone for what you have suffered and lost?

“There is another option—the possibility of mourning. Yes, you can mourn your losses. You cannot talk or act them away, but you can shed tears over them and allow yourself to grieve deeply. You can never get to the joy if you dare not cry, if you do not have the courage to weep, if you don’t take the opportunity to experience the pain. The world says, ‘Just ignore it, be strong, don’t cry, get over it, move on.’ But if you don’t mourn you can become bitter. All your grief can go right into your deepest self and sit there for the rest of your life.

“Better to mourn your losses than to deny them. Dare to feel your losses. Dare to grieve them. Name the pain and say, ‘Yes, I feel real pain, real fear, real loss; and I am going to embrace it. I will take up the cross of my life, and accept it.’ To grieve is to experience the pain of your life and face the dark “abyss where nothing is clear or settled, where everything is shifting and changing. To fully grieve is to allow your losses to tear apart feelings of false security and safety and lead you to the painful truth of your brokenness and dependence upon God alone. Finally, you come to the point where you honestly can say: ‘Yes, yes, yes! This is my life, and I accept it.'”

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, 42.

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