Iris in the rain image

Season: Winter

Permission to Mourn

By Glenna Wiseman

It seems our society wants so much to be polite at all costs that abject mourning is the sole privilege of the evening news. There we watch with a nearly perverse interest in another’s raw emotional discourse.

Mourning is real. It is not solely for those caught in an accident recorded on the news feed. It is for all of us who have lost something precious be it a business, a friend, a child or a parent. Sometimes the mourning process is quiet, in the recesses of our hearts and an empty room and sometimes it is as if the heavens have opened through our hearts with no gate sufficient to hold in the cry.

To wail is to lament. Loud wailing and rocking of the body is to keen. Keening, an ancient process of mourning the dead is just that – left to the history books or so it would seem. But what happens when you lose your beloved father? When there is no “polite” way to express a fathomless cry but to keen?

This is when you give yourself permission to find a sanctuary, a place where whatever sound you make for however long is your space and expression alone. It is the business of no one else. Nor is it a processing of deep and provoking grief that deserves judgment, beginning with judging yourself.

Don’t let anyone else make you wrong. If you have lost your business and despite months of pure and intense effort it is gone and the only way you seem to be able to move forward that particular day is to walk around the pool crying in the rain – then do it! Just wear a coat and don’t jump into the freezing water.

If your father is dead despite his valiant effort to live and the only response at the moment is to take the dog with you to a private piece of hilltop and wail, keen, rock and cry your eyes out – then do it! Don’t, I repeat, don’t let anyone else’s response to the grief causing event make your response wrong. On the other hand, don’t make their response wrong either.

Fathomless grief in the face of total despair is part and parcel to the human experience. Even those with a long list of spiritual credentials faces a loss sometime in their lives that is bleak, surreal, and unknowable.

There, in the moment of darkest despair, is a grace – the grace to respond.

Until there are no more tears, until there is a path forward – rock, keen, wail and cry. Honor your emotions as permission to heal.


I give myself permission to mourn. I welcome support and if there is none to match the depth of this darkness, I allow myself the space to welcome grace.

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