The world today abounds with suffering. We see loss, war, persecution, and prejudice everywhere we turn. But why is it so easy to remain unconcerned with the pain of others in the midst of such a broken world? Why do we so often respond to the violence evident in society today with indifference? Is it our own laziness and disinterest, or is there something else blocking the way?
One of the obstacles that can often prevent us from sincerely responding to the suffering of others is a lack of engagement with our own pain. That is where mourning comes in.
Concerted processes of mourning help us empathize with others in more meaningful ways.
Mourning is not just valuable for grieving a loved one—loss takes many forms. It can look like a lack of healthy family structures, failed romantic relationships, or waiting for justice that never seems to come. The process of mourning requires acknowledgment of the loss and suffering in our own lives as well as a willingness to move forward through the pain.
When we suppress pain and refuse to mourn, it continues to affect our present reality. For example, children of parents who handled conflict poorly (whether in the form of total avoidance or to the degree of abuse) might find it difficult to practice healthy conflict management as adults. In this instance, the loss of healthy parental leadership needs to be acknowledged. Only then can the negative effects of the past and their present implications be considered.
The mourning process is difficult because it involves voluntarily reliving the pain of the past and wrestling with hurtful memories for the sake of moving forward. Any occasion of acknowledging and processing past trauma is going to be hard. Working with a mental health professional can help provide guidance when this process seems overwhelming. But it will be worth it. Not only does the mourning process initiate the road to freedom from abuse, pain, and trauma, it can redefine your story. This process helps you arrive at a better place personally. As a result, the indifference, laziness, or disinterest in others’ suffering that existed before, might, through this hard work, be transformed into empathy for the broken.
A willingness to mourn and process our own pain leads to freedom from the ill effects of loss or past suffering. It also allows us to better empathize with and value others. An indifferent attitude towards the trauma you experienced translates to a greater indifference towards the suffering of others. This prevents the care and connection towards others that a follower of Christ is called to exercise. Choose instead to undergo the difficult process of mourning in order to live a life free to practice joy and offer empathy. Seek justice first in the acknowledgement of injustice.