Sometimes the fun stops and life seems nothing short of impossible.
A week or so ago, hoping, in part, to find some respite from the dreadful news by which we are all currently being bombarded, I went to see ‘The Duke’, the new film starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. It tells the true story of Kempton Bunton, the 60 year old taxi driver who, in 1961, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. And what a wonderful escape it proved to be. Well almost – for, without spoiling anything for those yet to see it, the film didn’t entirely cause me to forget the events that, as I sat there in the darkness, tragically continued to unfold back outside in the real world. But although it didn’t go unnoticed, it wasn’t simply that the film portrayed a seemingly insignificant individual taking on the might of the establishment that got me thinking. What stood out for me was a single line of dialogue. From memory, it went something like this:
‘It’s hard to find an audience for plays that deal with grief’
The thing with grief is that too often we don’t want to hear about it. Sometimes, perhaps, we find it embarrassing, the awkwardness of not knowing what to say too uncomfortable. On other occasions it’s simply too painful to acknowledge just how awful things really are and we prefer instead to pretend that everything is totally fine and that the fun never stops. This is, to say the least, unfortunate because, for those who grieve, there is often a need to express the sadness that they are experiencing, to have it heard, and felt, by another. For those who mourn, to have their grief felt by someone other than themselves, reassures them that their pain is real, that their loss is important, that the events they have experienced matter, not just to them but also to the wider world.
But to express one’s sadness isn’t merely helpful for the one who grieves. To see the grief of another and share a little in their sadness helps we who, perhaps shedding a tear ourselves, are drawn a little closer to the one who suffers, making a connection with the one who grieves, a connection that, too often in this frequently contactless world, we fail to make. And this indication that we truly care is not only a sign of love, it is an act of love too – one that begins to change us inwardly such that we don’t simply feel the pain of another but are motivated to actually try and do something to help, something practical that might just make a difference.
Today then, perhaps more than ever before, we need to be an audience that deals with grief – the grief of others. We need to ‘weep with those who weep’. Rather than hiding away from what pains us, we need to expose ourselves to the genuinely awful reality of what pains others. We need to connect with those to whom we will never be introduced and allow ourselves to be moved to help, in whatever way we can, those who currently find themselves in such dire need. Ultimately it is that which will reveal us to be truly human, it is that which will ultimately distinguish us from those who, having no regard for others, are willing to destroy all that is beautiful, in pursuit of their own ugly agenda.
When life is nothing short of impossible, we need to somehow find the strength to carry on. When the fun stops, we must not. Because not everyone can escape from what they are currently being bombarded by – not, at least, by simply taking a trip to the cinema.
Our tears, of course, are not enough – they are but the start. It has been said that saving another’s life is rarely like it is in the movies, that rather than it being by pulling someone from a burning building, it can sometimes be achieved by a few kind words of support, a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Well I don’t doubt that that is true, but right now those things won’t be enough for the people of Ukraine. They need more, much more. More even than the money and essential items that are so wonderfully and so generously being donated by so many. Though we must all continue to show love and kindness by giving what we can, right now our fellow Europeans need someone who really can pull people out of burning buildings.
That said, it is not only those in the Ukraine that are suffering. Though Kyiv is only a mere 1500 miles from London, our work brings us daily into contact with those who struggle closer to home, those whose grief is not invalidated by the dreadful events elsewhere in the world. The young woman who, with no hope for the future, returns to her lonely flat with tears spilling down her cheeks, the man, suddenly and unexpectedly made a widower in his 50s who now can’t understand how it has all come to this, the parent anxious about the child who is sick in hospital and with whom she is not permitted to visit. Regardless of the immense suffering elsewhere in the world, these, and many like them, also need our care and concern. They too need their distress to be acknowledged, to be seen as real and significant. They too need our help. And so, having witnessed their suffering, having had it portrayed before us in our consulting rooms just as the suffering of those elsewhere has been portrayed before us on our TV screens, we must endeavour to share a little of their pain and, in so doing, allow ourselves to be moved to offer whatever help we can.
Our compassion must not be something deserved only by those who have lost the most.
Because grief is not a competition to be won.
This is an adapted version of a blog entitled ‘Weeping with those who weep’. To read the original, and more explicitly Christian, version, please click here
To read, ‘Hearing the grass grow’, click here
To read, ‘Contactless’, click here
To read ‘Eleanor Rigby is not at all fine’, click here
To read, ‘General Practice – a sweet sorrow’, click here
To read, ‘On not remotely caring’, click here
To read ‘Vaccinating to remain susceptible, click here
To read, ‘From a distance’, click here
And the following related blogs are explicitly Christian in content:
To read, ‘Light in the Darkness’ click here
To read, ‘Real Power’, click here
To read, ‘But this I know’, click here
To read, ‘A Promise Keeper’, click here
To read, ‘Jesus wept’, click here
To read ‘A Hand Held’, click here
To read, ‘T.S. Eliot, Jesus and the Paradox of the Christian Life’, click here
To read, ‘I’ll miss this when we’re gone – extended theological version’, click here
To read ‘Rest assured’, click here
To read ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here
To read “Suffering- A Personal View”, click here.
To read “Why do bad things happen to good people – a tentative suggestion”, click here
To read “Luther and the global pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross”, click here