Grief Comes in Many Ways

We need to have a conversation about grief more often than we do. Grief, and the pain associated with it, is not something we like to discuss. We try to avoid it at all costs. But, if we love, we grieve. Those who help others deal with their grief will say that we need to acknowledge our grief as part of the process of working through it. Grief is not something we get over; instead, we learn to exist with the new normal in our lives.

Society understands grief after a loss of a loved one; in fact, the definition of grief includes the phrase “especially grief caused by someone’s death.” Society is starting to acknowledge that grief associated with the loss of a pet can be just as painful as the grief that comes with a human loss.

But what of other types of grief that might be less socially acceptable? The grief that comes with the loss of movement due to quarantine or a Shelter-in-Place order, the grief that comes from not being able to be with family and friends, grief that comes from the loss of a job? And, what about the grief that comes from not being able to worship together physically? All of these are examples of loss, and all of these come with some level of grief.

Very often grief that comes from a loss other than death is not accepted, and that makes coping with it more difficult. If the first stages of coping are acknowledging the grief, and society does not allow for that, how does one grieve? Not being able to express the emotions that come with grief over such a loss or being made to feel that your feelings are illegitimate makes coping that much more difficult.

I am a local church pastor, and since the order was given a few weeks ago, we have suspended in-person worship. We have worshiped the last two Sundays virtually, and it has been uplifting as well as rather fun. But it does not replace in-person worship. I understand that we can worship God anywhere, at any time and that we do not need the building. But buildings help us to focus and hold memories for us, like memories of happier times, weddings, baptisms, and Sunday worship. Of course, buildings can also hold bad memories like funerals and the like. Worship space and being with others is an essential part of who we are as a community.

As we approach the Holy Season of the Church calendar, Holy Week and Easter, we realize we may not be able to come together in the way we usually do. I have fond memories of the pageantry of the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter, and I will miss those this year. I will miss the faces of the people in the congregation and seeing their new “Easter Outfits.” I will not only miss all those things; I will grieve the loss.

Everyone experiences grief in their way, and everyone deals with grief in their way. Grief is a very natural response to a loss, any loss even if those around you do not acknowledge that loss. Grief can be debilitating, and the symptoms can manifest at any time. Coping with that loss is one of life’s biggest challenges. But whatever the cause of the grief, there are healthy ways of dealing with the pain.

Although you may not think so now, it will become less painful with time. We never “get over” the loss.  We learn to adapt to the new way of being community, being family and being church.   We will build on what we have already grown to know and love.  It may look and feel very different.  We may grieve the ways of the past, but that is always the case in our lives.  We now find different ways to do that and we will do it together.