keeping company with grief

Grief is a felt experience of love for something lost or that we are losing.
That is an incredibly powerful doorway.
Chris Jordan

The resources

Start wide – Reading again for the first time

Return to the full passage of the beatitudes once more and as you read it, listen for the shimmer of the Spirit’s prompting this week. Lectio is a practice that helps us to remember firstly that the scriptures are open, vibrant with meaning and wisdom and secondly that we are on a journey, learning, growing and changing.

You are not the same person who read these verses last week, which means this week you may be ready to perceive and to receive an insight which last week you were not ready for. Or it could be that in the intervening time, you have had an encounter that brings a word or phrase into focus in a new way.

Where do you find your interest sharpen? Where do your eyes glaze over, or skitter past the words at speed?

Which words or ideas stay with you this week and invite your curious wondering?

Moving in close – sorrow and mourning as beautiful attitudes

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

If I’m honest, although I know that grief is an emotion I have experienced in relation to loss of a particular hoped for outcome, to the ending of a relationship, to personal failure and to separation from loved ones, I still harbour a guilty-of-melodrama-sense that its proper place – its truly legitimate context – is loss through death.

When we relegate mourning and grieving to this corner of our consciousness, though, we miss the deep and enriching connection that mourning has with compassion. Compassion invites us and allows us to share the pain of the world, and in sharing the pain we become part of the healing of it.

The Practices

Create a grief and gratitude collage

Grief and gratitude are kindred souls, each pointing to the beauty of what is transient and given to us by grace.

Patricia Campbell Carlson

Collect images of people, places and things which move you with that blend of grief and gratitude. You may like to add words or symbols to represent issues or events that prompt your response. Once you have your gathered your images, stick them onto a large sheet of paper. You may want to leave a blank space somewhere on it to represent the openness to what has not yet touched your heart.

The news often offers us images of suffering, destruction and despoiling, but this collage is not for information, but for formation. Put it in a place where you can contemplate it at least once a day, letting a spontaneous prayer arise. Alternatively, you may like to try a breath prayer, breathing in pain, brokenness and loss, breathing out peace, kindness and courage.

Sing the blues

Giving grief a voice allows us to connect, returns us to the comfort of knowing that we are not alone, and music also allows us to express what is too deep for words.

If we consent to give ourselves to sorrow’s song, perhaps in some mysterious way we can give our voice for the voiceless. Because somewhere, someone (some animal/some land/ some thing) is suffering alone, suffering in silence, suffering without comfort. When we sing in lament with them, for them, in compassion and solidarity we are affirming a connection which is never lost but often hidden.

There may be a song that is already suggesting itself to you, suggestions follow if not. Once you have a song, it’s up to you how you give yourself to it. Maybe… play it (very loudly?) in the car; download to your phone and play it on repeat as you walk; play it and sing along (in your car? as you cook?); learn to play it on whatever instrument you can play; create an interpretive dance for it. However you do it, find a way to immerse yourself in the feel and sound of the song, remembering who you are singing it for, and who you sing it to.

Albertine by Brooke Fraser; O Lord hear my prayer by Taize community; nobody knows by Pink; Have mercy on me by the Porter’s Gate Worship Project; Closer to the Light by Bruce Cockburn.

Let a tear fall…

This may be a huge step for you, and one that you feel a deep resistance to. Tears are often seen as a sign of weakness, of lack of control, of over emotionalism if you are a woman and of unmanliness if you are not.

Sometimes the resistance to expressing any sadness, acknowledging any grief is because so much grief has been squashed and denied.

The sense of loss and the pain of loss get pushed into the back of our minds and covered over with taboos, rational diminishment, anger and other coping mechanisms so that we become afraid to lift the lid – even for one tear. If we let ourselves feel enough for one tear, what is to stop all the other griefs from pouring out in an unstoppable flood?

With most grief, the waves of emotion surge and recede, ebb and flow, and while there may be times when your head goes under, there are pearls to be found in the ocean’s depths if you are willing to dive for them.

As you step through the open doorway of love and loss, you will know what you need to feel safe. Above all, know that you are accompanied by the One who is Love – constantly faithful and closer than breath.

Ways to let tears fall may include:

  • find a time and place where you can be alone and write in your journal about a loss you know you have not grieved well.
  • ask a friend to join you as you talk through a loss you know have not let yourself feel.
  • take some time out to watch a movie that touches you (Schindler’s list; The Impossible; Wonder; Pay it forward) and let yourself be moved, similarly you could read a novel or poem, visit a place of significance for you that will allow you to open to gratitude and to grief.
  • if you have photos, letters, mementoes of something or someone whose loss you have not let yourself grieve, spend time with these and the memories they evoke.
  • pause to reflect on losses that you have not acknowledged – a hope you had cherished, a skill or ability you have lost/are losing, a change that you did not seek or expect – and allow the significance and implications to have their full weight in your being.

Go well my friends….

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