Some people in religious traditions use the time between Ash Wednesday February 17 and Easter Sunday April 3rd to celebrate Lent.
Lent is a special time of reflection and faith and is often practiced by “giving up something”. Its most beneficial to “give up” something that is most challenging during this period of time.
Examples of what people give up include gossip, social media, coffee, desserts and sweets, alcohol, soda, snacks, fast foods and dining out. Lent season is supposed to help with self-discipline and to remember the sacrifices Jesus made.
Lent is also a way to prepare for Easter- a Christian tradition, to give something up or commit to certain acts of kindness and compassion during this special time. Giving up something is supposed to improve your health, maybe help with financial balance and enhance a participant’s life.
While it is true most people can benefit from giving up harmful, challenging habits (does coffee and chocolate really qualify?), how does grief factor into this equation or practice?
A well-meaning friend recently asked me was I going to “give up grieving for Lent?” The question at once startled me, and then caused me much sorrow. While most widows would love to get off “the grief unmerry-go-round,” we know it is not that easy. We know it is not a grief switch to be turned on and then off whenever you like. But how would or could this friend begin to understand?
Truth be told, I would love to know when that wave of grief will attempt to drown me in an ocean of sorrow. I would be glad to get a preview of the “grief attack” before it sabotages my day or evening. That seldom happens. I still marvel at how sneaky grief is. I often have no idea it is going to show its ugly head and it is never at a convenient time.
Just like in the grocery store, where I’m innocently walking down an aisle, and suddenly realize the store’s management has relocated men’s cologne, and my eyes catch a glimpse of his favorite brand. Quickly, memories race across my mind of him. His smell, his hugs, his clothes are remembered, while my tears sneak out and roll down my cheeks, which are quickly wiped away. They are many, many more times grief just shows up unannounced. But then, you know that.
The point is- to even suggest or attempt to postpone grief for Lent is irrational and to imply I can just “wish it away” is unfair.
Grievers do not want to feel the pain and sorrows of times remembered, loves gone, hurts re-lived. No, grief is not something I can practically suspend for 40 days until Easter and furthermore, I do not think it is a healthy practice. To allow grief to run its course is what is best for me. Let the memories come, the tears flow, as the sorrow wraps me up in my lonely bed. This is MY journey.
This year, in 2021, I will not be giving up grief for Lent and I know my God completely understands. I will move into spring carrying the love I feel for my husband. Spring will bloom flowers bright, with longer evenings and darker nights. I’ll still experience the ups and downs of grief. But maybe this year a better option to give up is chocolate. At least chocolate, unlike grief, does not have a life of own and all I must do is keep my mouth closed. On second thought, I think I’ll skip Lent altogether this year.