Joseph was bereaved of his beloved mother not too long before he was seventeen years of age (Rachel’s death happened after the defilement of Dinah by Shechem Genesis 34: 2; and Joseph was close to Dinah in age Genesis 30: 21-23). This loss could be said to be his first notable challenge he faced in life. Although he lost his father too but this was at an older age (he was a father of two already). The Scripture gave a detailed description of how he grieved and mourned the death of his father in Genesis 50:1-4, 7-14. However, nothing was mentioned about how he responded to his mother’s death most probably because it happened while they were on transit or because it was an untimely and a sudden death or the fact that it was a very tragic and painful loss to Jacob her beloved husband and son Joseph, Genesis 35:16-20.
Though, the silence of the Scripture about his reaction/response to his mother’s death does not in any way imply he was insensitive to her death or that he did not grieve her loss. Joseph definitely would have been devastated and traumatized by the death of his beloved mother as a teenager and would have grieved and mourned her death in his own unique way for obvious reasons such as:
a) Death of a parent/parents or anyone that does the expected important duties of loving, caring, providing, protecting, guidance and several others for their children is an incalculable lasting blow to the child who knows that no one else can ever love him/her again like that.
Grief is a response that happens naturally whenever there is a loss especially by death. Grief cuts across all ages, status, races, religion; it is something not limited to certain category of people. Everyone would do it at one time or the other. Therefore Joseph must have grieved and mourned his mother’s death.
b) He would have grieved his mother’s death because of the natural strong love between mother and child. He would have had an exceptional bond with his mother being the first and only child she had after many years of barrenness and great reproach from her husband’s other wives (she died while giving birth to the second child many years later). Mother and child would have being very close and inseparable. Letting go of a loved one is the bitterest pill for anyone to swallow.
c) He would have grieved and mourned the mother’s death due to the circumstances surrounding her death: His mother was pregnant and about to give birth to a little brother after many years gap. Oh the great joy and expectations of Joseph to see his mother and little brother alive. But that was not to be, for the mother did not come through alive! What a chattered hope! Would he not have grieved intensively for the loss of the mother who died in such a sad and tragic situation? What could be more shocking and devastating as losing a loved one suddenly to death amidst high expectation of having something good and new?
d) He would have grieved the death of his mother because her death was not anticipated. Such deaths make one remain dazed and shocked with uncontrollable streams of tears falling from the eyes because letting go of someone we love is not easy. “When we experience loss by death grievers are faced with an absolute, unalterable, irreversible situation; there is nothing they can do to, for or about that relationship” W.A. MILLER.
e) He would have grieved the death of his mother because of the polygamous nature of Jacob’s family where there was so much noticeable rivalry, jealousy, hatred, and strife among wives and children that would made him feel the absence of his mother so much. Seeing his step brothers with their own mothers and him without his own would have made him miss her so much. This implies among other things that he was now at the mercy and care of his jealous step mothers and step brothers.
f) If he could grieve and mourn his father’s death as he did as an adult as described in Genesis 50:1-4,7-14, definitely, he must have grieved and mourned his mother’s death when he was much younger.
What I am trying to establish here is the fact that Joseph’s mother’s death would have been a colossal loss to him and grieving her demise a great challenge for him just as it would be for anyone especially children, teenagers/youth who might have lost a loved one, supporter, helper or someone depended on. His grief would have been overwhelming considering the points listed above. He would have passed through everything associated with grieving such as “intense sorrow, pain, loneliness, anger, depression, physical symptoms, and changes in interpersonal relations, all of which comprise a period of deprivation and transition that may last for as long as three years or more” Gary Collins Ph.D.
He would have experienced all the terrible treatments such as hatred and verbal abuse (Genesis 37:4) that motherless/fatherless children sometimes experience in the hands of step mothers/fathers and step siblings. His dream and aspirations were seriously threatened as a result of him innocently revealing to his family members dreams he shouldn’t have exposed as many motherless/fatherless children worldwide do. He made some grave mistakes that would have claimed his life if not for God’s timely intervention just like many motherless/fatherless children made, Genesis 37: 5-11, 37; 12-21
Interestingly, Joseph passed through all these and probably more, yet he coped and came out victorious. Joseph continued living his life and fulfilled his destiny. He is a good example of how a youth can handle grief.
DEATH OF A LOVED ONE AND GRIEF
Death is inevitable and can happen to anyone, at any age, time and through whatever means. Death of a loved one such as biological parents, foster parents, grandparents, aunts, friends and certain people that cared, support, and helped us is one of the things we would all face at one time or the other and grieving for them is never easy. It can be devastating. The death of any loved one especially one or both of the parents or someone one has special bonding with is usually met with great pains and sorrows by all especially youths.
HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY GRIEVING
Grieving which is an important, normal response to the loss of loved ones can be healthy if done as it should be and unhealthy when it becomes too overwhelming. According to Psychologist Gary Collins Ph.D. “Normal grieve which can be quite severe, often involves intense sorrow, pain, loneliness, anger, depression, physical symptoms, and changes in interpersonal relations, all of which comprise a period of deprivation and transition that may last for as long as three years or more” and this type leaves eventually to restored mental and emotional wellbeing.”
Grief becomes unhealthy when all the normal grief symptoms become too intense and turns to serious psychological and physical problems. Grieving when not properly handled can turn to an insurmountable challenge to a youth if not properly handled. It can cause inappropriate responses such as perpetual fear of death, hopelessness, depression, suicide, self-pity and low self-esteem, withdrawal, resulting to alcohol or drugs, anger and rebellion against God
The unfortunate thing is that there is this unfortunate situation where the adults don’t usually concern themselves about the emotions and feelings of children, teenagers and youth as they do with the adults facing the loss of their loved ones. They offer words of comfort and other assistance to the adults while leaving out the younger ones. They seem to forget that being a child/adolescent/ teenager or a youth does not make one less human or less emotional. Children mourn and grieve the loss of their loved ones too even more than the adults because of their tender heart and undiluted love and closeness and their little understanding of life and death. They feel the loneliness, bitterness, desertion, pains, guilt the adults feel when the lose their loved ones. Most times, they are totally destabilized. But, because adults believe they are too young to understand, they feed them with lies. As a result, with no adult to answer their many questions based on their inner mind, they at times turn to their peers who themselves have little or no answers for their question and in turn will lead them the wrong way.
HOW TO AVOID UNHEALTHY GRIEVING….to be continued…..