Lisa Valentine Clark on how to comfort those who are mourning: ‘We are not meant to do this alone’


On June 5, 2020, Christopher Clark passed away after a four-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Just days before, he and his wife, Lisa Valentine Clark, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Now, she feels her husband’s absence every day and was so overwhelmed with grief and sorrow that she just wanted to “marinate in it”. In this week’s episode of All In, Lisa discusses what she has learned from the process of grief and how to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, even if they may not want it.

Read more in the excerpt below. You can also listen to the full episode in the player below or by clicking here

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity. 

Morgan Jones: You have now had the experience of being on the receiving end of a lot of comments and a lot of efforts to receive service. And I loved at one point, you said that you were, “So overwhelmed by feelings of grief and sorrow that you just wanted to marinate in it.” And I think that that’s a feeling that a lot of people can relate to across the different circumstances. You also said, “When we do that, when we remove ourselves from others and put ourselves outside the line of influence and love and the ways that people can serve us and love us and help us and be a very connected part of our lives for preservation or for protection, it limits the ways in which the Lord can bless us.”

And so I wonder when you are in that space of just wanting to feel alone in your grief and wanting to process everything that’s going on, how do you allow yourself to continue to connect to others and to be served? And what did you learn through that experience of being served by others?

Lisa Valentine Clark: Well, and let me be very clear, too, I feel like when someone is going through the worst part of their life, it’s better to say something than to not say something—even if it is the wrong thing, right? And I feel like, it would be helpful to talk about mourning more, to talk about grief more, to be less afraid of it, you know. All of us are grieving and mourning lots of different things on different levels. And sometimes I think that we want to protect others from our pain because we think it will swallow them.

You know, I certainly had those moments where I thought this pain of what I’ve lost of the world–and I know it sounds dramatic, but I really feel this way–the world lost Christopher Clark. You know, all the future, you know, productions and friendships and laughter and an influence. And so I feel like we all have reason to mourn. But each one of us, individually, will find ourselves and, you know, mourning big and little things, you know. Dreams and hopes that we didn’t even know we had, an idea of the future.

You know, when you’re younger, you really think anything is possible. And as you get older, you quietly see some doors close, and some doors are slammed in your face, and you know, that not all things are–you’re not going to be able to have all experiences in this life. And that deserves, you know, it’s time and place to be mourned and to be acknowledged.

And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that, you know, Christ mourned with others. He wept with them even though He has the power to dry all of their tears into all power and all knowledge. And so there’s something significant in that, there’s something significant. And taking that time, though, to be alone and to ponder what that means for you to shrink and hide away and not have to worry about your responses, your facial expressions, your manners, your anything, and to have that time alone to be quiet. That’s certainly really, really important, I think.

And the other context, though, it’s easy to get stuck in that. And I think we all know people who might quietly withdraw from people or just not fully show their whole selves to people. Whether they’ve gotten their heart broken, they’ve been embarrassed or hurt, or experienced a loss for whatever reason, not fully be in the world and not fully participate in relationships and not fully give their heart away, or not fully be invested in a friendship or not be fully honest, or vulnerable or brave because it’s such a risk. And I think now I have a little bit more empathy for those individuals because it is such a huge risk now. But without that risk, we never love deeply, we never live fully, we never experience what it is we are here to experience as humans, which is to love one another and to help one another, and to learn how to understand our true nature and place in the world as it relates to God.

And I feel like, you know, it’s hard because we don’t talk about mourning in those terms. You know, it’s not like the only, you know, Christopher dying is certainly the worst pain, the worst loss that I’ve ever experienced. But it wasn’t the only one that I experienced. And I had a lot of time over many years to lose a lot of other hopes and dreams and relationships and disappointments in small and big ways. And they all echo the same thing. We are not meant to do this alone. We can’t do it alone. And it is humbling and embarrassing and awkward. But we have to–we have to help each other. There’s just no other way, or I haven’t seen another way to do it.

Lead image courtesy of Lisa Valentine Clark

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