Saturday, November 7, 2009

Roundabout Connections

Dave Wilkinson, now a United Methodist pastor in Green Bay, Wisconsin, came many (many!) years ago, before he was an ordained minister, to the Methodist church to which I used to belong; he and his wife were our first directors of Small Group Ministries. They are, in fact, largely responsible for the close-knit group of friends of which we have been a part for 22 years; we were one of their original "small group" efforts. (I know it's been 22 years because the Lovely Daughter was a newborn.)

In 1998 Dave and Donna's son Dustin died at the age of sixteen from a brain tumor, and a year later the online ministry Sound Bites was born. I subscribe to Sound Bites, but tonight when I went back a few days to copy this post into my blog, I discovered that Sound Bites now appears as a blog as well! It's a collection of quotes pertaining, as Dave says, to Christian faith and life in general. Take a look.

This one is, I think, particularly appropriate to this blog:

"Healthy grief, dramatic and even traumatic as it may be, is a three-stage process. First, it is fully experiencing and expressing all the emotions and reactions to the loss. Second, it is completing and letting go of your attachment both to the deceased and to sorrow. Third, it is recovering and reinvesting anew in one's own life. Missing any of the steps in the grieving process may result in unhealthy or unsuccessful grief. Because these stages may take many months, unsuccessful grief may not show up until long after the loss…

For us to [journey through] every step of the grieving process requires awareness, courage, openness, self-support, and support from others. Because of the complexity of this process, many of us do not fully complete each necessary step…

Unsuccessful grief is also the result of the misguided ideas of courage in our society. For example, courage is often seen as a capacity to be silent when in pain, to control tears at all costs, to function regardless of the depths of turmoil inside us, and to handle our wounds and sorrows privately and independently. Few of us are so superhuman. When we try to act accordingly to these ideals, we usually deny our pain and never learn to cope with it. Since pain unexpressed does not dissolve spontaneously, we may suffer severe consequences from pretending to be superhuman…

It takes enormous courage to face pain directly and honestly, to sit in the midst of such uncomfortable feelings and reactions until we have expressed them and finished with them. It takes courage to be willing to experience fully the pain and anguish of grief and to face feelings at the time they occur rather than postponing the encounter."

-- Judy Tatelbaum in The Courage to Grieve

8 comments:

Karen said...

Wow, that is good. That encourages me to continue to pour out my grief. It exhausts me at times, and I think others too. But that passage tells me it needs to be done. I find the process difficult and painful, but now feel affirmed that it is necessary. Thank you for printing that up for us. Such a pastor's heart in you...

Songbird said...

I remember so well the people who wanted me to just be "better." They made me feel my loss didn't count, though I later realized they were hiding their own (an infant death, the loss of infertility) from themselves. It's not easy to be a Grief Pioneer.

Gannet Girl said...

SB, that "move on, put it behind you" attitude just adds to the sorrow, doesn't it? In my family of origin, it has resulted in a 49-year trail of hardship.

Jodie said...

But life is full of smaller losses, and smaller griefs. We are not allowed in society, hardly ever, to go through such process for smaller losses.

A promotion, a degree, a friendship, or a friend who moves away, an aspect of our health or youth, a pastor, a favorite coffee mug...

If we are not allowed to mourn the little things, how are we to know how to mourn the big ones?

RomeLover said...

Thank you for the quote and the link and your heart turning to support for children and teens. We've just lost a friend to cancer and he's left an 11 and 15 year old. Your pain has given you great gifts to share.
So, thank you. And I do pray for you.

Mary said...

Thank you for providing this excerpt and giving me a new RSS feed to add to my growing subscriptions! It looks like I am in stage 2 in grieving the loss of my husband. The first year I alternated between trying to rush through the grief process and riding the waves of emotion. It will be 3 years in February, and I'm beginning to see my new life taking form.

Nancy said...

Thanks for the reminder and link.

I was much comforted when I heard that it is never to late to experience a grief. While this sounds totally yucky to some, it meant that I could experience the grief of my father's death decades ago when as a child I was not given and did not have the tools and support.

Also reminded me of Elizabeth Harper Neeld and her work on grieving. So helped me -- she is a wonderful woman who has grieved many losses. I remember her saying that after one particular loss the only people she could stand to be around were the police officers on break at 2:00 a.m. in a Houston coffeehouse.

I need to revisit her work.

Please continue your writing.

Deb said...

I've been getting SoundBites for a while now... juxtaposed with the one from Inward/Outward I often find a jarring convergence...

And I do understand that feeling of "what is next..." as I'm also in my last year.

Peace to you.