things i know and don’t know about lament:
what is clear about lament:
1 it is excruciating.
2 it isn’t chosen. i just comes out of you. from your core. your toes. your bones.
3 it feels out of control to be in a state of lament and even more out of control to witness someone else in that space.
4 westerners avoid it. at all costs. always.
5 it is the only way to healing. un-grieved losses/unfelt regrets fester. they infect the soul and body and take their toll on you and all those around you.
6 it cannot be “fixed,” coaxed, or prayed out of a person. it is a natural process. crisis (of all kinds) causes reactions. one of them is grief and regret. pretending that these don’t exist will not make them go away. it will, in fact, make them grow.
what is not clear about lament:
1 it cannot be objectively defined and/or quantified. for some, lament will include sorrow and tears, for others anger and yelling. for some, isolation and, for others, intense desire for enmeshed connection. because of this, it cannot be judged.
2 what may cause strong lamentation for one person may not for another. our personal experiences are just that, personal. there is no way any of us can know, unless we are privy to disclosures, how deeply a loss or regret might impact anyone other than ourselves. what we see on the surface (or show on the surface) is just that, on the surface. there is always a root sustaining a weed above the ground. always.
3 lament is different from disappointment. it isn’t complaining. it is bigger than simply blowing off steam and it is close to wanting to die. when one is in a state of lament they are in the messy process of closet cleaning. everything must be thrown out, surveyed, chosen or disgarded before any semblance of order can be found.
cleaning old wounds:
the act of lament (which i consider honest and authentic expressions of grief or regret) requires a lot of work. intentional and accidental. deliberate and passive. it is often accompanied by seemingly non-sensical desires for both isolation and connection, imbalanced cravings for both the bright lights of the city and the darkness of ones’ bedroom. it is rarely within one’s control and it is often accompanied by a proliferation of bodily fluids. especially sweat and snot.
lament is not pretty. neither is it safe. it resists easy answers, tidy appearances, and platitudes. it doesn’t mind its manners. it raises its voice (and sometimes its fist) and uses salty language. it makes us unpredictable and leads us to feel untethered, unraveled, and adrift. lament is complicated and most of us are looking for less, not more, complications (read messy, complex, unpredictable, and emotional) in our lives. and so, it stays locked up, under the surface. especially within the shared spaces of our communities. who wants to invite mess? welcome pain? to not know what to say?
in Truth and Love seeking communities, however, the act of lament is necessary. if we are to love each other authentically, how can we justify being unwilling to wipe the eyes (and noses) of those among us who face excruciating pain, unimaginable loss, and unrelenting regret. to bring about peace there must be space for lament. the remnants of loss breed complex emotional reactions similar to the infections caused at the site of an uncleaned wound. for the skin to heal peacefully there must be a cleansing and that process will almost always hurt.
opening ourselves and our communities to the reality of pain takes courage and a letting go of control regarding how things “should” look. oh, and, kleenex doesn’t hurt and neither does the loving rich deep silence of simply being there.
(originally published in the "making peace through lament 2015 peace reader" published by the northwest yearly meeting of friends)