Pam Kramer: Grief, not again you say? Pastor Justin and I had planned on two conversations about grief. The first part, last month, proved to be eerily prescient of the deep losses this congregation experienced at the beginning of September. The grief of the congregation seemed to bring out the best of Trinity—yes, the best: love, caring, and support for the families and each other. Since then, others of you have lost friends and family. We love and want to care for you, too.
It is expected that someone will grieve after the loss of a parent, sibling, partner, child, or best friend. It is a misperception that “more” grief is better or that there is a proper way to grieve. Most of the time, we use the term, “grief” to describe deep sadness at the loss of a person. But those are not the only losses that lead to grief. You grieve the loss of a pet, a job or other important role in life, or a home or emotionally significant possessions.
Perhaps we all feel grief when change occurs. For example, the days are getting shorter and darkness comes earlier; the leaves and plants are going to sleep in the fall to rest for a new year; and still close to all of us is the loss of routines and normalcy because we are in the midst of a pandemic which threatens our children, grandchildren, and unvaccinated friends and colleagues. Pastor, how do we cope with what seems like everyday grief, sadness, and mental distress caused by change?
Pastor Justin: It is important to remember that grief is not a sign of weakness or deficiency of character or spirit. Equally important; grief doesn’t go away. In fact, it compounds. What does change is our capacity to hold the grief and to live with it. When this happens, we may be able to accept it and find meaning in the grief. Perhaps there is a reason every time we hear a particular song we begin to cry. Because that song is a bridge to memories, to experiences, and to something/someone no longer with us.
Change can be a pain in the ass. That is for sure. And it can be an opportunity. While change can be so life-altering fast, our grief in response doesn’t have to be fast. We can take our time with it if we choose. It isn’t linear, and it isn’t formulaic. I suppose the way we cope is to imagine ourselves like a rubber band… somedays we will be able to stretch to hold the grief and somedays we won’t. Maybe somedays we will feel like we have stretched so far, we snap. That is okay, too. Because when we snap, our communities of faith and communities of support gently hold us and our grief so that we can mended.
Pam: But what does God have to do with this? People like to say things like “It’s God’s will”; “God has a plan”; “God knows what He’s doing.” How do we reconcile grief with God’s love for us? Why would He let us suffer? Is it a test? Is our faith shaken by grief? (We know Job’s was not.)
Pastor: Grief and God’s love for us are not at odds with each other. While I completely understand the desire to ask questions—“How could God let this happen?” “Is this part of God’s plan?” “Is God testing us?”—ultimately these questions can leave us feeling empty and angry with our idea of the Divine. AND it’s perfectly normal and healthy to ask these questions…Lord knows we join the whole company of Saints who have cried out these same questions for millennia. But, like Job, we don’t always get the answer to these questions. Instead, we get something more.
We get a God who breaks into our grief in surprising ways, in absurd ways, in ways that we may not recognize at first, but like a drip of water on a rock slowly start to change us.
I write this recognizing all the ways I am holding grief in my body and spirit. And I am learning how to request God “meet me in this grief.” I don’t know how God will meet us in our grief, what that will look like for everyone, I just know that God will.
I do like to start the day with a reminder, a love letter from God. It is as powerful as it is simple.
I Love You…No Exceptions. — God