Lament: The Practice of Expressing Grief

crop faceless overwhelmed black man covering face against wall

Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.

N.T. Wright

Grief is our uniquely individual, yet profoundly collective, heartbreak in response to communal wounds. Lament, at its essence, is the practice of expressing grief. Therefore, the most important part of any lament practice is to take space to grieve. So, let’s take a moment today (and as many moments for as many days as we need) to do just that. Even with our busy schedules and the many demands of life, we have the right to make room for our feelings, process our emotions, and tend to our bodies, to find the comfort and nurture we need as we begin the journey of healing and courageously continue living in the wake of the unthinkable and unimaginable. 

Another important part of lament is to ask tough questions. At The Expectations Project, we do faith-based advocacy, which means we root our advocacy work in the convictions of our varied faith traditions. Being a person of faith does not mean having all the answers. Instead, it means having the courage to ask honest, human questions in the face of life’s many difficulties. 

My own faith tradition centers the teachings of Jesus found in Christian scriptures. The Jesus stories in the Gospels suggest that when God sought to solve humanity’s greatest problem, give God’s greatest revelation, and send Creation help, God did so through presence – by embodying Godself in the person of Jesus and being Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And I believe God is with us – in the midst of our suffering, subjected to our suffering, showing us the way through our suffering. 

When we, in lament, choose what I like to call the open-heartedness of inquiry (exploring the questions grief brings), we find that we are not alone. We have the presence of God or the Divine with us and for us – a God who sees us (Genesis 16:13) and hears us (Habakkuk 2:1-3), a God who is our Comforter and Teacher (John 14:26). We also have the wisdom of the ancestors or those who’ve gone before us supporting us. And, we have each other – advocates all around this country who are grieving too and doing the hard work of creating safe schools and building a better world for all God’s children. 

As we set our hands to the work we all must do, let’s commit to honor our full humanity and make space for our grief. Let’s ask our questions and find the very present help we so desperately need in times of trouble. 

What questions are you asking as you grieve? And how does your own faith tradition or worldview remind you that you are not alone?

June 23, 2022
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Cami King
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