Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Day After Grief

Yesterday, we had our fourth funeral in a month. We've gone for awhile without any deaths; so, we knew that our time was coming again. All of the funerals (Services of Death and Resurrection) were for the families of people who died in their eighties (one was 91).

So, all of these saints lived long lives. There is much for which to be grateful. And, in some ways, death comes as a blessing, a relief from suffering or pain. So many memories, so much time, and in a service of worship we gather to praise God and give thanks. We are surrounded by family, friends, and the church. It is the church at one of its best moments.

And yet, it's still sad. No matter how old our mother or our father, their loss is still significant. Grief is still a part of the experience.

Most of us know the stages of grief as outlined by the great German Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:

* Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
* Anger (why is this happening to me?)
* Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
* Depression (I don't care anymore)
* Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

Now, some may experience some or all of these stages. Different people may experience them in a different order with acceptance always coming last, of course.

What strikes me about grief as we go through it, is that there never seems to be enough time to do all the crying and grieving that we need to do. We take a few days. We have the funeral. There is this flurry of activity when people are coming in, bringing food, and praying for us and with us. (No one is better at this than Bethel folks) Then, we have the funeral. And, usually, the day after we are expected to get back to work, back to life as usual.

It just all seems to be too quick for me. On this day after a funeral, I am struggling to get going. Sometimes my own grief gets the best of me.

When I was a boy, our family doctor was Dr. Switzer. He was a great man back in the days when doctors came to the house when needed. It was said of him that when one of his patients died he would go off somewhere, get away.

Grief stacks up for all of us. Take the time to grieve when you need to and let this wonderful process of grief that God has given you move you back to life. Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus and wept (John 11). So do we.

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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