In his brief book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis remarks, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
As your pastor for pastoral care, I have the privilege of spending a good bit of time with people who have just lost a loved one. In those tender moments, one of the most common questions I hear is, “How should I grieve?” Often what is underneath that question is the assumption that the way we grieve conveys how we really feel about the deceased. If grief is pronounced then we must sincerely miss the person. If grief is muted, then we must not be too sad after all. Such suppositions are natural, but I have found they are generally incorrect. Outward appearances rarely truthfully reflect someone’s interior state.
Instead, here is what I have learned about grief: Each person grieves in their own unique way. What is the right way to grieve? How should you grieve? In whatever manner allows you to honestly access your feelings of pain, loss, anguish, sorrow, and whatever else may rise to the surface in the aftermath of someone’s death. Each person is different, and each circumstance of grief is distinctive.
What I also have learned about grief is that it can be helpful to journey through it alongside others who are going through a similar experience. No one will fully understand your grief, but someone else may understand what it is like to grieve, to have one’s world drastically changed, to experience new emotions without explanation. That is why I often recommend joining a bereavement group. In that context people can share their own story, hear the stories of others, and be assured that they are not alone.
Your church has a bereavement group that has just resumed meeting in person, after being fully virtual for much of the pandemic. It is called “Searching for Still Waters.” The group gathers to explore the many complex feelings of grief after the loss of a loved one. Together, the group looks at choices that allow for healthy living while maintaining a connection with the deceased. The group gathers the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in Converse House Parlor, and is led by Dr. Sophia Park, a licensed therapist who specializes in grief. The next session is Saturday, May 13.
If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to consider attending Searching for Still Waters. Within this bereavement group you will be able to share your grief, hear the stories of others, and be reminded that you are not alone. Your grief is unique, but that does not mean you should journey through it in isolation.
Of course, if a bereavement group does not feel right to you at this point, that is understandable as well. All of your pastors are willing to meet with you and prayerfully support you on your own grief journey. You are not alone. Your church is here.