Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
Mourning is the external manifestation of grief, which is the primary experience that accompanies most forms of loss. I lived in regional Italy for a year in 2007. Being in a small mountain village I witnessed at close quarters the very different approach to death, by the Italians, in contrast to my experience in Australia. The old man in the apartment beneath my castello apartment (with some walls that were over 800 years old) had passed away. His body, once prepped, was placed in an open casket in the family lounge room, where it remained for a few days. Family and friends would drop by, during which time they shared meals, laughter, tears, wailing and memories as they celebrated the life of their nonno and amici. When the day finally arrived to take his body to the cemetery, as his coffin passed through the village centre, all of the shop owners closed their businesses and everyone in the village moved out onto the street, creating an informal guard of honour.
In Italy it’s common for both men and women to express their grief and sorrow very openly and loudly. There was a time in Italy where men were banned from public displays of mourning which resulted in certain women taking on the role as the ‘official mourners’. They would become the symbolic representation of the grief that everyone felt.
This second Beatitude reads, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. It seems that mourning offered something that grief didn’t. In the first Beatitude, we see loss happening from circumstances beyond one’s control - natural justice, death, ageing and misfortune. Little did I know when writing my last blog that this would be a global experience just a month later, due to the impact of the Corona Virus. Grief typically is expressed in five ways as it progresses; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When the thoughts and feelings are focused inwardly, people typically stay stuck in their grief, which can go on for years.
So what is so different about mourning that it can result in being comforted. Mourning is, as said earlier, an external manifestation of grief. That which is being experienced within is given form without. This makes it easier to be a witness of your grief, which is much more difficult unexpressed. This changes how one can relate to the loss. In the case of grief you are feeling the pain of your loss, in mourning you begin to observe your loss and it’s associated pain. There is a point where you almost step back from the experience and you become the witness to the experience. It is the place of being fully immersed in being the observer, you are removed from any feelings and from giving any thoughts a meaning. Mourning makes that a possibility.
In the place of being the witness, you have thoughts but are not your thoughts, you have feelings but are not your feelings and you have sensations but are more than that. In the place of being the witness there is stillness, and that is when “being comforted” comes to the surface. In that place there is release from the pain of grief. It doesn’t deny the grief or the pain, as they still exist. It’s a little like me and my neighbours in Italy. I could see the loss and the grieving of my neighbours and friends, and I could see the body in the casket as I walked past the opened doors of the home, but it had no impact on me. It didn’t take me out of my stillness. Sure, I had empathy for their loss, but I had no need to grieve or even mourn. The only possible impact it could have on me was if I had unresolved grief from my own personal experience of loss that I superimposed on this experience, which is in fact sympathy.
In the Enhances Awareness Program, we help people stand back from their lives and invite them to become the witness of how it has been expressed physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and how that has impacted on their health and wellbeing, and their relationships. One important distinction here is that as mentors, we intentionally have participants take a factual approach to their life experience and less of a reactive (mental/emotional) approach. In this way, we help people to maintain a consciousness of being a witness. Only when something is authentically observed can it change. This is what this part of EAP does, it helps people to see what has and hasn’t served them. More importantly, it does this without judgement or blame or expectation that their life experience was wrong and needs to be fixed.
Instantly people are freed from their suffering. You can only hold one perspective. It is either the perspective that is immersed into the feeling and thoughts of the grief and loss, with all of its suffering, or the perspective of the witness who can see the grief and loss, but chooses to only observe it. The EAP program systematically has you write down those things you have been unaware of and how they have impacted on your life experience. By doing this you are helped to become more of the witness, which stops you from being imprisoned by your grief.
Besides the relief that comes from your suffering, you are now in a position to also see what sits outside of your experience that resulted in your grief. This means that mourning is the essential precursor to seeing a new reality, something that is better serving. While we are caught up in our grief, we can’t see any possibility of there being an alternative reality. No matter how much someone try’s to have us see an alternative, it’s not possible. Even if it was, it wouldn’t be sustainable.
This part of the process is making provision for the next step, which is becoming meek, best described as being teachable.
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