From the Very Reverend Kristina Maulden
A few words on grief
I wanted to express my thanks to all of you for your prayers, cards and kind words at the loss of my Father in December. I felt those prayers in my spirit as I travelled back and forth to Tucson, while he was dying and at the time of his funeral. As I journey with my own grief, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts.
Clergy have the opportunity to be with many people as they grieve and as they die. I count it as a privilege to be present as pastor and witness as we enter into this sacred and most vulnerable time with others. There are profound moments of prayer and connection as people move out of this world. I have been bedside as family and friends have sung loved ones to heaven. I have heard confessions that have brought peace and calm. I have seen family members reconcile as they are brought together in moments of sorrow. I have also seen how grief shows up as anger, regret and blame.
Indeed, grief is expressed in so many ways. There is no way to quantify the amount of suffering or pain at any particular death or way of dying. We lose people suddenly or slowly, gently or violently, expected or unexpected. Sometimes we even feel somewhat prepared for death. But, I rarely have found anyone completely ready for all the emotions that are released when our loved one dies. More likely, we push off our feelings around loss in an attempt to compartmentalize our grief. Our hearts want to protect ourselves from the pain, because losing anyone we love is painful.
The statement that makes the most sense to me is that we grieve because we love. I think grieving is one of the most comprehensively human experiences. Not only do we all experience grief at one point or another, it is something that effects our whole person. We feel loss in our hearts, minds and in our bodies. Our thoughts go through bouts of denial, anger, acceptance, doubting and questioning. We may even experience a sort of brain fog. Our heart may actually ache or feel empty. Our eyes release tears and we may tremble or hurt in other ways. But, even though it is universal, our culture tends to minimize or make awkward conversations around death and grief.
Everyone should be given permission to not feel okay. People may not spring back to their old selves right away. Grieving takes time. How much time? Again, this is something that cannot be quantified. It is like trying to measure the depth of your love or your capacity to care. Grief is non-linear. But, it is also inescapable. If we bury our grief because we think it is time to move on, we harm ourselves. Grief buried can turn into anger that lies just under the surface. It can make us ill or depressed. So how do we walk with grief?
There are so many ways to shape our grief. Finding someone to talk to is very important: friend, counselor, priest, coach, coworker, family member. Being part of a grief support group could be beneficial. Sharing stories about the person or persons you loved helps bring peace to troubled thoughts or sleepless nights. You might want to do something in that person’s honor: go on a journey, plant a tree, build or create something they loved. As we also grieve in our physical selves, do tactile things that connect you to memory and also to this earth. Bring that person intentionally to mind and have a meal that they would have enjoyed. Perhaps listen to their favorite music. Find time to pray and ask God to be with you in your moments of sorrow. You may want to write down your memories or thoughts in a journal. Take the time to just be with the pain of loss.
We have the promise of everlasting life in heaven with God. That is our hope. And even at the grave we make our song, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”
God’s grace and blessings be yours.