It seems fitting on this July afternoon that the skies are pouring rain. In four hours a group of very special persons will gather in our most comfortable meeting room here at church to begin five sessions together. What brings the group together is that all have experienced the loss of someone very dear to them in the past two years. All have faced the death of one beloved to them, and now they are navigating their way along the emotional journey we give the name, grief.
I have been facilitating these annual groups for the grieving since the summer of 1983. For thirty-five years persons have shared their stories of loss and pain with one another. We have compared our journeys, discovering shared experiences of grief as well as identifying feelings that may be felt only by one. We have listened. We have wept together. We have remembered together. We have escaped some of our emotional loneliness and discovered with one another authentic community.
This first session today will be the hardest one. Today we have to share our stories – stories of who we are and who has died that was so dear to us. We will recall days in hospitals, ordeals of suffering, times of frustration and helplessness, and the struggle through the early days of dealing with our loss. Later we will find it easier to smile, to find joy in remembering, but not today. The stories are too painful. Thus, today’s rain seems fitting.
What we hope to communicate with one another is that grief is actually a gift – the gift of an emotion God has given to us so that we can respond to loss in our lives. As painful as grief is, it is preferable to being a people who cannot seem to identify or express any sadness when someone we love dies. Abandoning any pretense that we can use faith to make grief not hurt so much, we accept the hurt as part of the journey we need to take after a great loss. The real affirmation of our faith in the midst of grief is that God is with us, that God cares for us, that God weeps with us.
Tennyson wrote, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. I hope that with the group that convenes today we will find our way to that benevolent acceptance. Our loss is great and our grief painful and uncomfortable, but it is the price we have paid for loving and being loved. In embracing my grief, I am embracing an important and good part of my humanity.
–Jack Glasgow, Jr.