ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF
The year 2020 has been filled with numerous difficult events. Subsequently, it has brought a year filled with grief. Consider the many ways our world is grieving:
--individuals infected by COVID-19 virus with sickness and perhaps long-term effects of the virus on their health.
--families who have lost loved ones in death to the coronavirus infection.
--families who have lost in death loved ones due to police shootings and gun violence.
--a nation grieving racism, overt white privilege and violent nationalism by victimizing countless numbers of ethnic minorities.
--citizens grieving the loss of basic civility in our nation, especially as demonstrated in politics and our elected leaders.
--Trump supporters grieving the loss of white supremacy in their MAGA rallies as they face a growing multi-cultural America.
--families grieving the loss of ritual gatherings and celebrations such as weddings, funerals, confirmation, bar-mitzvahs, graduations and holiday gatherings.
--our children, youth and young adults grieving normal venues of education which includes the context of face to face day routines with friends.
--society grieving touch and togetherness as we maintain social distancing guidelines in masked encounters with others.
--faith communities grieving in-person worship celebrations and the usual ways of being in community.
--society grieving economic losses, business closings and individuals loss of employment.
And many more realities producing grief.
I can honestly say for 40-plus years in ministry, I have been acquainted with grief. For example:
--as a hospital chaplain in ER waiting rooms with families facing the sudden death of loved ones by accident, murder, suicide or heart attack or stroke.
--as a pastor praying with people facing a critical illness, surgery or treatment in a changed health and life status.
--as a pastor supporting hospice patients dying and families facing the imminent death of their loved one.
--as pastor helping grieving families process their grief and plan funerals.
--as pastoral counselor helping individuals find new normal after traumas and deep changes in their life, relationships or employment.
Not to mention my own grief in losing in death a spouse, parents, family members, friends and colleagues.
What I have learned in being acquainted with grief is how necessary it is for us as humans to face it, experience it, and journey through it if we are to be truly whole and healthy – individually, as families, and as a society. However, I have also learned how our American culture is adept at promoting death and grief denial in numerous ways, such as:
-- individuals afraid to be open to experience their grieving emotions.
--avoiding seeing death in physical bodies.
--projecting uncomfortable emotions on others or hiding real grief issues by focusing on something else.
--coping with grief by a quick fix through shallow theology, addictive substances or processes.
--inability to accept limits on one’s ability to be totally in control (a myth anyway).
--a culture that at times promotes going it alone in tough times and find your own self-help.
So I see the coming year of 2021 filled with more grief, loss, uncertainty and unfortunately more COVID-19 deaths. But the year will also be filled with opportunity to grieve in open, accepting and healthy ways including all that we are – mind, body, heart and spirit. At the same time there is opportunity in the coming year to continue our “denial culture” blaming “fake news”, repressing grief and personal discomfort, and minimizing the trauma we all are experiencing. And this will only continue to spread unhealthiness and lack of wholeness in individual lives as well as society as whole. Let those of us who understand and know first-hand that grief is not an enemy – live so, say so and challenge others to truly be acquainted with grief, in all its occasions and forms.
Thank you, Rick, excellent words of wisdom!