A reflection for a course on Pastoral Theology and Care.
Jamison’s “Mourning and Melancholia” is a compelling read, especially in light of Kelley’s “Grief.” Jamison’s observations reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ reflections in “A Grief Observed” which were highlighted in Kelley’s “Grief.” Jamison’s opening remarks on how grief comes in waves, catching Jamison off-guard reminds me of how Lewis was hit by grief when he was not expecting it, and that grief had different forces of impact at different times. This reminds me of the wisdom to be mindful that people may experience grief long after people have stopped calling and helping out with hot meals, that especially during anniversaries or special occasions the grief can be acute. Jamison notes this with the anecdote of going to a different church in order to avoid interacting with other people who would remind Jamison of Richard. I particularly appreciate Jamison’s description of mourning and melancholia because it highlights the experience of grief as compared to mental illness. Kelley’s “Grief” does not much focus on how mental illness can intersect and contrast with the grief process. I appreciated Jamison’s insights into how grief felt distinctly different from depression and mania in that it was grounded in reality, that there was a “sanity” about the grief. I found Jamison’s comments on how grief was instructive to be particularly beautiful. Jamison makes the profound observation that grief contains grace, and counter-intuitively, also contains life, because it reminds us that suffering and death are experienced by everyone as part of the human condition. I appreciated Jamison’s insight that death can create pauses for us to observe and learn things about those who have died that we might not have learned when they were living with us. In a recent television show, a character rhetorically asked himself whether he regretted marrying early, and having a life with his wife who had died early from cancer. He emphatically said that he did not regret marrying early at all, but that if he could, he would have married earlier, so that he could experience more arguments over the bills and who was going to cook, before his wife died. I found it poignant that death can allow us to reflect on the past in a way that makes even petty squabbles and the ordinary conflicts of everyday life seem extraordinary and precious.
Sources (with Amazon links):
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Kay Jamison, “Mourning and Melancholia” in Nothing Was the Same, book review on NYTimes
Melissa Kelley, Grief: Contemporary Theory and the Practice of Ministry
Also, this is touching:
And the response: