Community and Grief
Three weeks ago, my mother died. So many of you have supported me, in ways I greatly appreciate and will never forget. Your love, understanding, and support have been cherished gifts as I navigate through the grief process and life without the person I loved most in the world. I have dealt with profound grief before when my father died in 1992. I worked hard to progress through the grief process. It was then that I began to understand what people meant when they used the term “grief work,” because it was indeed work. Today I have memories of my Dad to sustain me and forever keep him with me.
One thing I have been reminded of this summer is the importance of community. It seems I forgot, or set aside, the importance of community and its significance to the healing process. I have been with countless others as they suffered through their own losses and worked their way in and around their morass of grief. I knew how much community meant in practice, but when it hits you on a personal basis, I discovered, or rediscovered, that the emotional and spiritual connections with those in your circle of friends and influence and faith community really are something you need to help you put one foot in front of the other during the journey. It really “hit home” for me. I don’t know what I would do without the Church, without my clergy friends, the congregation I am a part of (even though I don’t get there often enough), the congregations of which I have been a part, friends from college, from high school, from seminary, church camp, my family…my “Community”.
People find community in different places, and the support and importance of other forms of community serve in much the same way as a faith community and are no less important. However, as I look inside my own broken heart to seek and find answers within the pain and sorrowfulness of grief, what I see reflected there is the unfaltering love and faithfulness of God working to comfort me through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the community of faith of which I have been fortunate enough to be part of for most of my life. What I am trying to say here, I suppose, is that “Church, never underestimate the importance of compassion and comfort, support, and encouragement of those who mourn the loss of loved ones and who work through grief toward a life of renewed promise and hope.” When those who sorrow are comforted spiritually, emotionally, and physically, the outreach of the Church is never forgotten.
Grief is universal but we all grieve differently. Through my study into the nature of aging, dying, and grief, I have found a few resources that might also be of benefit to you or your congregation as you provide pastoral ministry and come alongside others as they move from grief to grace. You can find the writings of Erin Coriell, an end of life care advocate, writer, and grief worker, at The Conscious Dying Network and/or learn more about her from her article on Huffington Post Community in Grief. With these resources, you will find a labyrinth of articles, blogs, etc. on grief, and you can further explore the importance of community during times of loss.
Blessings, Church, as you continue the all-important ministry of “binding up the brokenhearted.”