Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Grief and Loss

Yesterday we spent the morning discussing Grief and Loss.  It was another intense time of facing the reality that by leaving I am causing, and experiencing, a lot of new grief and loss.  Inextricably combined with this new stuff is all the weight of the ways I have (and have not!) processed grief and loss in the past. 
Saying goodbye to loved ones now is not just about today, but also about moving away from my friends in Toronto when I was eleven, and how I didn’t handle my mom’s death well, and of course, lots of other grief and loss.  It’s not about staying stuck in the past, but understanding that the ‘now’ is informed, and in some ways shaped by, the ‘then’.  As I said, intense!
“Grief itself is not something we recover from.”  At first these words in our notebooks seemed false or hopeless.  Like perhaps many of you, I learned about the Five Stages of Grief back in college.  It is a process, beginning with Denial and ending with Acceptance.   Once you’ve hit Acceptance, you are done, ready to move on. 
To be fair, my Psych profs all emphasized the fact that we go through the steps at different paces, and sometimes ‘circle back’ to an earlier stage.  But, in my mind, it was a pretty neat and clean step-by-step thing.  Check ‘em off as you go, and onward and upward!
Of course, anyone who has gone through grief (which means each one of you reading this!) can testify to the fact that this simplistic notion is not how it works!  Instead, we can seem to be doing okay, and then a song, or a particular holiday, or the scent of tulips or baking bread, knock us back to a weeping heap. 
It’s complicated and it hurts.  As our notebook went on to say, “…grief is emotionally painful work.  Grief allows us to heal and grow, but the cost in emotional energy is often very high.”  This, of course, means many of us choose to avoid the process.     
One of the (many!) things I love about MTI is the way we always go back to our first source of information and knowledge, the Word of God.  Yesterday we spent time looking at passages which speak to grieving.  I have to say, a lot of what is described in the Bible is very different from my comfort level.  I prefer to be alone, suffering silently (or at least quietly behind a securely shut door!). 
Throughout the history of the Israelites, there were calls for loud wailing, sack cloth and ashes, sharing together as a community in pain and suffering.  We are to carry each other’s burdens, which sometimes means simply sitting next to someone and weeping with them.  No pat answers, no platitudes, just raw and real emotion. 
We also sat and thought about scripture passages which have comforted us in times of distress.  Robin encouraged us to not even open our Bibles, but instead just allow the memory of verses and phrases to minister to us.  He then invited us to share them out loud. 
Oh, friends!  To sit in a room filled with disciples, hearing words of truth spoken from all sides… I wish you could have been there!  As Robin stated, it was worship!!  What a rich gift we have been given by our loving Father through His living, active Word!
We ended by writing laments and prayers on large sheets of paper.  We sat together and those who felt led came and knelt and read their cries aloud. 
I wrote, and prayed silently, but to speak them felt too exposed.  I’ve still got a long way to go, I know.  But, hearing others willing to give voice to their pain was a gift.  Entering into their suffering, expressed in whispers and shouts, barely audible through voices choked with tears, was humbling. 
Oh, to be that Biblical in my own grief!  It both scares and excites me.  It means being much more vulnerable and open than I’ve been in the past.  It also means entering into the richness of the Body of Christ in new ways.  Those who were able to grief well were also those who were able to laugh with joy. 
I am beginning to understand grief truly is not something to recover from.  Instead, I pray by an openness to grieving, I will learn more and more how to come to terms with my own losses, and be present for others in theirs.  If I can do that genuinely now, oh, how much more glorious will Heaven be, when I see not only my tears, but the tears of those I’ve journeyed with, wiped away!    

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