The Grace of Mourning

This whole week, it has been there, just under the surface. Creativing a tension and a weariness. Adding to the unpredictable nature of my late – 40’s womanly prerogative. This awareness of a deep mourning just under the surface. 

I was able to go home last week, back to New Mexico, with the youngest two kiddos. We ate an enormous amount of Mexican food and almost satiated my need for red and green chile.

We rode Clydesdales, or thought about riding them. 

We played late night solitaire with Grandpa. 

Mostly, though, in the midst of all of this, I went home to see my Mom. I’m not sure if she knew that I was there, and those of you who have walked this road of Dementia understand that. This is the most despicable disease. I have written often in the past about the sense of a long endurance mourning which accompanies this, a mourning which does not offer any release or any healing. A mourning at the loss of the person who remains physically  present. 


Each activity is marked by an awareness of our loss of Mom’s lively personality in our midst, even though she is present. She would enjoy so much her grandchildren, and they would so enjoy her.

So, this week I have been aware of this mourning, this desire to weep, more closely present with me than at other times. 

Her Dementia continues to change her, and those changes bring a new sense of loss. A new step in the mourning.  But it is this mourning that is held in check because it is not complete, and it cannot be given completion. There is such frustration in that. A word can set off a stream of tears and then it is hard to hold back the floodgates, because they have been restricted for so long.

I don’t like to cry. I don’t like to mourn. I don’t like to think of the what ifs and the should be…and yet I am realizing that we need to make the space for that. We need, in the midst of the difficult seasons, to give ourselves the space to mourn, to weep, to shout in anger at God (he can handle it), to give our emotions the needed expression. 

So many around us are carrying such deep, deep burdens. Within my acquaintances and friends I can think of those facing divorces, bankruptcies, children dying, houses falling apart, jobs in peril….deep, aching fear and mourning and uncertainty. Most all of these people have children and have the need to keep life ticking along, as we all do, so we tuck those emotions away and try to continue on. 

Until that guy cuts us off on the freeway and we lose it.

Or the lady at the grocery store looks at us funny and we fall apart.

Or we yell at our kids.

Or we just pull in to ourselves and begin to detach to try to keep the emotions in check. And we miss…we miss the moments we could rejoice, and we miss even the moments we could mourn and find healing.

I have quoted this from Buechner before:


“some moment happens in your life that you say yes right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. waking up to the first snow. being in bed with somebody you love… whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. if you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul.” 


I wonder if the opposite is true a bit as well…if we find the moments that bear down upon our soul and break us, we need to cry out to God and weep. We need to not resist that mourning and allow ourselves the sorrow. Before it turns to anger because we have tried so valiantly to keep it in check.

David knew.

I cry aloud to God,

Aloud to GOd and he will hear me.

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

In the night my hand is stretched out 

Without wearying;

My soul refuses to be comforted.

When I remember God, I moan; 

when I meditate, my spirit faints.” Ps. 77


He knew how to weep and cry out to God.

I need to read more Psalms. 

My Mom was a beautiful woman.

She still is. 


She has taught us much even through this season. She will sometimes catch us with her laughter, and it makes us pause to hear it. She is completely dependent on my Dad and brothers and I have learned that they are men of faithfulness and kindness and care in a way I never would have seen otherwise. 

I still would rather be able to talk to her. But this is what it is. 

Right now she is teaching me it is ok to mourn along the way…and she is reminding me that others carry deep burdens as well. We need to give each other grace in these days. Maybe the snarky waitress is holding back tears. Maybe the irritating driver is distracted by life changing and  difficult decisions. 

I write much about finding wonder and beauty…maybe, just maybe, today we need to hear that it is ok to recognize the pain and sorrow and give it the space needed. I wrote the other day about books being able to help with that Ugly Cry.   We were made to praise and sin and shout, but we were made just as much with the sensitivities to love and mourn and weep and have deep sorrow. Sometimes we don’t need much help, we just need to give ourselves permission. I usually give myself permission in the shower. 

Wherever it is, if you have been holding it all together for too long…allow yourself some time and grace to mourn. Then come back with a little healing under you and grace for those you encounter.

Hear my cry, O God,

Listen to my prayer;

From the end of the earth I call to you

When my heart is faint

Lead me to the rock 

That is higher than I,

For you have been my refuge,

A strong tower against my the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!

Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! – Ps 61:1-4

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5 thoughts on “The Grace of Mourning

  1. Lisa Huddleston says:

    You wrote this post nearly a month ago, but I am thankful to read it today. Chuck and I understand the frustration of incomplete mourning. His father also has Alzheimer’s-like dementia (my mother-in-law will not say “Alzheimer’s.”) My heart aches for you as your children are still young and I know you miss having your true mother there to participate in all our your lives. Blessings.

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  2. Carin Parker says:

    Hi Sarah. You probably won’t recognize my name, or know who I am, but I am the daughter of Ruth McKinley (Parker), who was a childhood friend of your mother’s. My father is Frank Parker, & my mom & dad were friends with your folks, & our families used to get together once in awhile when we were kids & still lived in NM (Alamogordo). I think the last time we were together was when we went back to NM & through Albuquerque on home leave from Germany, which would have been in the early 70’s, I believe. Anyway it made me very sad to see that your mother suffers from dementia, as I remember her being a lovely, sweet woman. Sadly my mother also suffered from it, & we lost her last November. It is a terrible, insidious disease, & watching a parent slowly disappear & withdraw from us is the worst kind of torture. It truly is the Long Goodbye, & I am so very sorry you, Fred & the rest of your family are going through this just as my brother Clay & I did. I wish you all peace as you go through this final journey with your mother.

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    • sarahkwolfe says:

      Carin, thank you so much for your comment. What a small world. I’m so sorry you have been through this as well, it is really amazing how many people are impacted by dementia / Alzheimer’s.

      I always love hearing from people who have known mom!

      Like

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