"I’m a Christian not because of the resurrection (I wrestle with this), and not because I think Christianity contains more truth than other religions (I think God reveals himself, or herself, in many forms, some not religious), and not simply because it was the religion in which I was raised (this has been a high barrier). I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (I know, I know: he was quoting the Psalms, and who quotes a poem when being tortured? The words aren’t the point. The point is that he felt human destitution to its absolute degree; the point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.) I am a Christian because I understand that moment of Christ’s passion to have meaning in my own life, and what it means is that the absolutely solitary and singular nature of extreme human pain is an illusion. I’m not suggesting that ministering angels are going to come down and comfort you as you die. I’m suggesting that Christ’s suffering shatters the iron walls around individual human suffering, that Christ’s compassion makes extreme human compassion—to the point of death even—possible. Human love can reach right into death, then, but not if it is merely human love.
"Such a realization should ease loneliness—even for the griever who is left alone; it should also, in time, help to propel one back into life. Nothing is served by following someone into a grave. Somehow, even deep within extreme grief, the worst pain is knowing that your pain will pass, that all the bright particulars of life that one person’s presence made possible will fade into mere memory, and then not even that. Consequently, many people fight hard to keep their wound fresh, for in the wound, at least, is the loss, and in the loss the life you shared. Or so it seems. In truth the life you shared, because it was shared, was marked by joy, by light. Cradled in loneliness, it becomes pure grief, pure shadow, which is a problem not simply for the present and the future, but for the past as well. Excessive grief, the kind that paralyzes a person, the kind that eventually becomes an entire personality—in the end this does not honor the love that is its origin. Is, not was: our dead have presence. You don’t need to believe in some literal heaven to feel the ways in which the dead inhabit us—for good, if we will let them do that, which means, paradoxically, letting them go.
“But the world’s evil,” cries out the woman in “Home Burial.” “I won’t have grief so / If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t.” She’s right: the world is evil, and grief is too little acknowledged and honored in our culture. But I have a feeling that I’m speaking here to people who, like this woman, are conscious of this fact and determined to resist it. I don’t know if the woman in “Home Burial” is pathological; I don’t think so. What I do know, or sense, is that within the love that once opened up the world to you—from the birth of a child to meeting your mate—is a key that can let you back into the world when that love is gone."
-Christian Wiman, in "Mortify Our Wolves", The American Scholar