Silent grief


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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The shocking death reportedly by suicide of comedic actor Robin Williams and of Golden Krust Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill founder/CEO Lowell Hawthorne have catalysed some thoughts I am still musing about — the unexpressed grief that some people go through. We all need to be more sensitive, discerning even, but even then we may still miss some in need of help.

Can you wrap your brain around the level of grief one must be experiencing that would prompt someone to take his/her own life?

Imagine the trauma of losing a pregnancy, or several pregnancies, through miscarriage when none of your friends even know that you were ever pregnant.

Compound this, in a church. You are a single woman but become pregnant after “tiefing a likkle piece” (engaging in premarital sex) and suffer a similar fate. To whom could you dare turn for prayer support; let alone empathy? Silent grief.

Then, consider having been raped or seduced by someone whom you trust and respect and whose reputation would be given preference to your allegation. Jesus's prayer on the cross for forgiveness of his detractors would not even come to your mind twice. The grief of living silently with that scar has mentally fractured many and made murderers of yet others.

Amidst the raging abortion debate, I run the risk now of being misunderstood and vilified, but here goes.

Whether you are like me, a mere man or you are a woman, it should not be difficult to appreciate the mental/emotional dilemma a female who has to deal with an unwanted pregnancy faces. Sure, the sex was wanted (assuming she was not forced), but the pregnancy was not!

From the comfort of our armchairs in philosophy, bioethics and/or religion we can say all we want, but the options are still perplexing for that woman who has to decide what to do, that is how to decide amidst the varied and conflicting options that come to mind.

I just ask that we avoid two popular but unhelpful extreme responses to a female's decision to choose abortion as a solution to the dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy. Those two responses are moral condemnation and rights-obsessed compromise.

Though difficult for most of us, let us try to arrive at the middle response option of genuine compassion, which, by the way, need not rise higher than “standing with emotionally, and readiness to offer help as requested or needed” without a value judgement either way.

I am a pro-life and anti-abortion clergyman (though not a pastor anymore) but I suspect that there are many women in our churches who are wrestling with the silent grief of having had an abortion (pre- or even post-conversion), and who badly need but dare not ask for prayer support for the guilt feelings they still register.

To such sisters, I say abortion, though wrong, is not the unpardonable sin, so cry out to God, because Father's grace is available and adequate for every confessedly needy soul. Hear our Lord's word to the woman taken in the act of adultery after the judgemental folk, who perhaps thought they constituted the fourth member of the trinity, had backed off: “Neither do I condemn thee, go thy way and sin no more.” (John 8:11).

The peculiar never-dying pain of losing a loved one we can all identify with, but who would even try to see your side if you caused a friend or loved one to be gravely injured or killed because you were too afraid to attempt to do anything to prevent this? Who really? Real grief plus golden silence.

Finally, a not so rare source of silent grief is being stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage, and, worse, without a child to mitigate what seems to be wasted years.

These and many other situations are sources of silent grief for people who, like Robin Williams and Lowell Hawthorne, appear to friend and family to be A-okay, but are really enduring silent grief until...

Rev Clinton Chisholm is academic dean at Caribbean Graduate School of Theology. Send comments to the Observer or

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