I haven't been regularly blogging for months, but recent events have opened a vein of some kind, there is blood still pulsing underneath the grief of the last 3 1/2 weeks, and as author Richard Foster has said, "When you write you must bleed." We are a messy pair right now, my husband and I, but we are not without hope.
I was watching a beautiful video by Sarah Bessey this morning from The Work of the People, "You Are Not Forgotten," and she said something about a late-term miscarriage she had and how she did not trust her community with her grief. And how she wished that she had. I have so been there. And so I thought, "Oh, the expectation we put on ourselves not to fall apart right in front of everyone—especially when we are in ministry." And my other thought was, I don't want to be that kind of pastor or chaplain.
Never mind that, I don't want to be that kind of person.
I long for my spiritual roots, my roots in community, to be so much deeper and truer than that. I want to tell the truth with as much grace as I can muster and believe that others care and that they will enter our grief (imperfectly so, and that is to be expected) and that together we will facilitate healing that couldn't happen if David and I crouched in a corner and waited for the storm cloud of loss and grief to pass us by.
Now, having said all that, there are some roadblocks to being this vulnerable, and I share them here with a spirit of hope that others will help us to overcome them. In truth, they already have been helping us. Often people are capable of so much more than we know.
I believe we won't know who can enter into the pain and loss with us until we let them know our pain. And I see now that the ones who end up doing the comforting often appear unexpectedly. They may or may not be those closest to us in life.
Here are a few observations on what we are realizing we need right now:
1. We need to know that our grief matters.
The other night a friend told me that we had lost a baby and a birth mom, and that being our reality, we need to grieve it. We actually need to go through the stages of grief, being open and allowing them to happen when they come, that we need to honor our grief. The way she said it was solemn and true, she faced it head-on and acknowledged it for what it was, giving us permission to grieve. But then in her honesty and care, she went farther. "Not only do you have something significant to grieve, if you don't grieve this, you won't heal."
This morning my friend Natasha prayed for our process of grief and for God showing up in it. She read a passage to me about sorrow. She participated in our healing.
2. We need to know that we are loved by others as a way of being reminded that we are the Beloved of God.
Love manifests itself in many ways. But the way we feel it best right now are through words of acknowledgement that others see our pain, through people showing up with food in their hands, through friends who help us wade through our emotions when we are able to talk, through people who are PRESENT. And by the way, people not saying anything often feels worse than someone saying something awkwardly. I very much understand "we have no words" as an initial response. But eventually we do need you to say something. Even if it is just "we love you guys."
Oh, the ways we are being educated on our own sensitivity to those in loss. We want to do better. We want to be more present, whole, and listening well.
As I was writing this post, the doorbell rang and the FedEx guy delivered something so thoughtful I started crying. It was a large box of gourmet chocolates from a local company, DeBrands, with a note that said "We love you and care about you! Praying for you!" An amazing couple we are just getting to know sent them. Let me just say that I can't wait to get to know these folks better. My friend PeggySue says chocolate is medicinal, and it is: both the thought and intention and the actual chocolate. (David, all of the dark pieces are mine! So far dark chocolate mocha tops the list.)
I am ending this post feeling affirmed, loved, and known. These are steps into the vulnerable for me, for us, but we want to say, "Friends, we are working to trust you with our grief." Thank you for walking with us through it.
Your turn: Have you trusted your community with your grief? How have they helped you through it?