Lenten Journey: Loss and Grief as Expressions of Love and Care

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4

My Story of Loss: Going into Hiding

Grieving in God’s Protective Custody

In September of 2010, my pain and agony became public record; divorce, dissolution of marriage, the death of a long term committed church sanctioned relationship. Call it what you want! I was reeling in the shame of failure, wallowing in the guilt of a broken family, wailing in the fear of an uncertain future and lamenting in the deep, unexplainable pain of rejection, betrayal and abandonment. Pride, shame and public humiliation drove me into hiding, leaving behind part of my family, my home, my church, my job, my friends and my community of ten years. I could face no one.

The year leading up to divorce was excruciatingly painful in a way that I have never experienced pain before. The pain of childbirth did not even compare. (I deeply apologize to all the people in the world that told me they were going through a divorce and I responded with indifference.) I felt like a wounded animal; leaving trails of blood everywhere I walked, gaging on the anger and forcing back the tears of sadness and despair. Finally, I could take myself no longer.  So I packed a truck with my possessions, gathered up my daughter, Sarah, two dogs and a cat and quietly left, barely waving goodbye.

Wake Forest, North Carolina became Sarah’s and my new hometown. It was remote, peaceful and distant. We knew no one and no one knew us. We felt like we were in the witness protection program. We even changed our looks. Sarah went from being a golden blonde to a beautiful brunette and I went from a dark brunette to a sunny blonde.

After frantically settling into our new house, I began my new life in quiet desperation. Grieving the loss of my home, family unit, spouse, relationships, church community, and function as lay pastoral associate, wife, mother, long anticipated future, hopes and dreams had begun. I was lonely, too alone for an extravert who thrived on people, activities and taking care of others. I was too emotionally and spiritually shaken to actively work in ministry, my chosen field. My anxiety prevented me from engaging in activates alone and my distrust prevented me from building relationships.

My pain and shame forced me into solitary confinement. Grieving is hard work and I was exhausted. Day after day I reflected, remembered and retold my story, trying to make sense of my life as to why the marriage ended in divorce. Furthermore, I was experiencing an identity crisis. I had spent so many years focusing on the care and love of my children, spouse, work, education, and home. I could barely remember asking myself how I was doing, what would I like or what was important to me? I tried so hard to do the right thing, to be perfect and failed miserably.

I spent most of my time praying, crying, writing and talking to God. Sometimes I sobbed. Frequently, I would just stare at the Carolina blue sky in awe. It is really beautiful in North Carolina! Mostly God just listened and loved me in spite of myself. Often we just sat together silently. Eventually the pain passed, lessened over time and I began to write meditations on faith. Finally, a few people got past my exterior walls and I allowed them in. I made friends and began to participate in life a little at a time.

Only now have I come to realize that I have been in God’s Protective Custody. I was graciously shielded to heal the wounds of my body and soul.  However, it is time. It is time to lower the walls, open the door and emerge from my safe, solitary haven. Thanks to the devotion and comfort of family and a few friends, I have been able to trust again, share my sorrow and joy, offer and receive love and care anew. Through the lens of grief and mourning, I can see now how I have been blessed in so many ways. It feels good to step back into the light.

REFLECTION ON LOSS and GRIEF as Expressions of LOVE and CARE

As human beings created by God to live in community, filled with a lifelong internal desire to be attached: to love, be loved, belong and be accepted and yet to be autonomous. As we experience life, we experience changes and loss in relationship to ourselves, to others especially our loved ones, objects and with creation.  We all experience loss and change every day, whether minor and seemingly meaningless, no cream for our coffee on a stressful morning, or complex and life shattering such as the death of a loved one or divorce. Loss or change produces the normal experience of grief. With grief comes an influx of unpredictable, inexplicable, possibly deep seated emotions such as fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, guilt, shame, loneliness, emptiness, sadness and despair.  Grieving takes time, solitude, community support, energy and a willingness to engage in the process. The more we are attached and connected in relationships of love and care, the more deeply we experience loss and grief.   The promise of our Lenten Journey, naming our losses, grieving and mourning is to be blessed by the comfort of faith, hope and love.

Reflection Question: What loss would you like to grieve as your Lenten Journey?

Let us Pray: May we open ourselves to the possibility of grieving a loss so that we can open our hearts to the Love, Comfort and Blessings promised to us through faith in God. AMEN


Lenten Journey: Loss and Grief as Expressions of Love and Care

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dearest Family and Friends,

As we all know, change is inevitable and a normal part of life. In 2010, changes in my life led me to begin writing weekly scriptural meditations and, in 2011, to create my website Seekinggodspresence.com (Seeking God’s Presence Healing the Wounded Heart.) Many of you have been devoted to reading my meditations and I am very grateful. I hope you will continue as the meditations take on a new flavor during Lent: Loss and Grief as Expressions of Love and Care.

After significant prompting from many of you, I applied, was accepted and am currently participating in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as a Chaplain Internship. Serving as a Hospital Chaplain has made me acutely aware of the experiences of LOSS and GRIEF as expressions of the LOVE and CARE we have for each other.

As we enter our 2013 Lenten Journey, my mediation writings will be changing format as I begin reflecting on the theme of Loss and Grief as Expressions of Love and Care. I hope you will continue to read, reflect and mediate on my writings as I share my personal stories of loss, grief and the grace of hope and love as they flowed forth from the depths of my suffering and the tears of my sorrow. Because we are created with the insatiable need to be loved, to belong, be accepted and to offer our Self as love, we experience losses and grieve deeply.  

My first meditation, emailed to you on Sunday, February 17, 2013, Loss and Grief as Expressions of Love and Care: LOSS OF PRIVACY will be on the experience of loss and grief as I surrender my deeply held desire for privacy to tell my story as an expression of my love. Scary? Oh Yes! Absolutely!

First and foremost, I ask that you pray that I will have the courage to open my heart, be vulnerable, and share my Self through personal stories of loss and grief as expressions of my love and care for you so that we may all seek God’s presence and heal our wounded hearts.   

Secondly, I ask that you hold me in prayer as I serve the hospital community and develop the skill, competency and unique pastoral presence of a hospital chaplain. It is my hope to complete 4 units of CPE over the next year.

I am deeply grateful to my family and friends, most especially those who held my hand, listened patiently without judgment, loved me unconditionally and bore the burden of sorrow with me. Furthermore, I experienced God, not as the One to remove suffering, but as the presence of LOVE through others and the beauty of creation to faithfully journey with me through the darkness of suffering, towards the light of hope and into the fullness of Love again. “My soul shall be healed.”



Leave Everything and Begin a Journey

“The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted then to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star.”

Pope Benedict XVI

Now that the gifts are unwrapped, the guests have returned home and the decorations are packed away for another year, where is our heart? Did the gifts, glitz and hype live up to our expectation? Is our heart still yearning for more? God created in each of us a deep desire to seek God through Jesus Christ that no earthly person, present, food or decoration can fully satisfy. In us stirs a great passion, a slow burning fire, that when fueled, will force us from a state of waiting. Eventually we must thrust forth on a journey, let go and leap, in faith, for that star that will guide us to Our Savior. Burning in our hearts is the compassionate love of God that will prompt us, like the Magi, to set forth on a journey to encounter, with humility and tenderness, the love of our lives, Jesus Christ.

Reflection Question: How is God fueling your heart so that you can see the star and set forth on a journey in faith? What is your response?  

Dear Jesus, fuel the desire in my heart to set forth on journey of humility and tenderness to be with you. Amen

Allowing God to Love Us First …

For the week ending on Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples:

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,

just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

John 15: 9-10

We are commanded to love God above all things and then love one another as ourselves. Many of us desire to love one another through service, prayer, attention, kindness, emotional understanding and even financial support. After much giving of love, we are often worn out; exhausted and depleted of patience, compassion and energy. Sometimes we become resentful and frustrated when the other does not appreciate all the love we are pouring out for them. Can’t they see how much we love them! If we read the scripture carefully, we are to love others as we love ourselves. How do we love ourselves? When flying, we are commanded to put our oxygen mask on FIRST before we assist our children or neighbor. God commands us to seek God first before we assist others. We must be open and receptive of God’s love of us, experience it in the flesh through prayer, reflection, nourishment, scripture and alone time with the Lord. When we constantly seek to love God first and follow the commandments, we are truly loving ourselves and can only then offer that same God love to others. The only way we can fully love another is if we allow God to fully love us. Jesus reminds us that the love expressed between God and our self gives us the presence to love others fully. Let us put on the oxygen mask of God’s love first so that we can be of service and love to others.

Reflection Question: Am I too busy loving everyone else at the expense of my own need to receive and express love between God and my self?

Dear Jesus, help me to seek you first, remain in your love and then allow you to guide me to love and care for others. Amen

Dear Friends, I would love to hear how you are experiencing God’s love for you.

Answered Prayers and Favor’s Granted:

Dear Jesus, Thank you the gift of a supportive, loving family that prays for each other.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being with me in the hospital.

Approach God with Confidence

For the week ending on Sunday, October 21, 2012

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

So let us confidently approach the throne of Grace

to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Hebrews 4:16

In the time of Jesus, the Jewish custom allowed only the Holiest to enter into the most sacred spaces of the temple. When Christ died on the cross the walls crumbled and the sheet was torn separating us from our God. Through the presence of Christ, the Eucharist, we are now able to enter into God’s loving, merciful and wondrous presence. There is nothing but our own pride and ego that can keep us from confidently approaching God. There is nothing that we have done or not done that God does not know or forgive. God’s grace is for us: compassion, understanding, mercy, forgiveness, courage, empathy, patience and help. Let us surrender our pride, leave our ego at the door, open our heart, enter into the presence of grace …  and allow our hearts to receive Christ’s peace, joy and abundance.

What am I hiding that only God’s grace can mercifully reveal, courageously help and tenderly heal?

Dear Jesus, call me to your presence, fill me with faith so that I may confidently open the door and approach you with an open willing heart. Amen

Favors Granted to Adorers and visitors of the Adoration Chapel:

Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of a special family that includes me as they worship and pray together.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being with me as I received the news of my test results.

The Richness of Wisdom

Sunday September 30, 2012 The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Those who trust in their wealth and boast of their abundant riches …

For all their riches, if mortals do not have wisdom, they perish like the beasts.

Psalm 49: 7,21

Are we rich enough, safe enough, famous enough, beautiful enough or strong enough? What standards are we using to measure if, how and when we are enough? We boast and flaunt our accomplishments, prestige and fortune. All for what? Beauty, fame and fortune fade and die in time but the wisdom of God in our hearts gives us eternal life. The wisdom and love of God in our hearts is enough. It will make us rich in compassion, safe in eternal life, remembered for our presence, beautiful in the eyes of mercy and strong in faith and perseverance. The humility of wisdom inspires us to recognize that the wealth and abundant riches of faith, hope and love are what make us enough in the eyes of God.

Dear Jesus, help me to seek wisdom so that my heart may know the abundant blessings of faith, hope and love. Amen. 

Share with me how wisdom has challenged, altered or inspired your response to finacial wealth? I am open to listen and reflect on your insight.

Thank you!


Seek Wisdom over Advice

 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,

then peaceable, gentle and compliant,

full of mercy and good fruits,

without inconsistency and insincerity.

James 3:17

Advice is generously offered from so called experts appearing on popular talk shows, strangers with similar experiences, friends with good intentions and family members that have a vested interest in the outcome. At times, we listen to their suggestions, hoping for some meaningful insight, direction or guidance. At other times, we wish for the voices to be silent or for the dilemma to simply vanish from our life. Advice is not the same as wisdom. Wisdom addresses the issue from the perspective of our loving God, all knowing, just and trustworthy. God doesn’t have any hidden motives or ulterior agendas. If it is advice we need, the wisdom of God is only a silent, heartfelt prayer away. The wisdom response will call us in humility and compassion to forgive, offer peace and sincerely seek the Truth that Jesus Christ offers us.

Dear Jesus, open my heart to your wisdom so I may be pure of heart, gentle and sincere in the joys and struggles of my life. Amen

For what issues in your life are you most in need of the wisdom of God

and not the advice of experts, friends and family?

How does wisdom change your response?

Please share your thoughts and prayer. I am open to listen and hear how  the word of God and this meditation touches your heart and life. Thank you. May God bless us.

Decide Today Whom You Will Serve

For the week ending on August 26, 2012 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Adoration of Jesus Christ – Scriptural Meditation

Joshua addresses all the people,

“If it does not please you to serve the Lord,

decide today whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15

We hear so many voices calling out to us, commanding our attention, insisting on an immediate response and demanding our loyalty. From family loyalty, job loyalty, religious loyalty to brand loyalty for the cars we buy and the food we eat. The promises they make of happiness, financial gain, popularity and beauty lure us into commitments, rituals and behaviors that deny authentic love and belonging. If my teeth were whiter everyone would love me and include me. If my truck were bigger and tougher, everyone would envy my strength and covet my power. If my house were newer and grander, people would recognize my success and admire me.

All false god’s lead us away from true love, genuine acceptance and personal dignity in ourselves as children of God. So…who do we serve? A false god that humiliates, demoralizes, excludes and destroys life? Or the One Holy God that loves, forgives, invites and nourishes us now and prepares us for eternal life? Let us ask our hearts this question. Do the people and things we serve and value bring us together as a community of faith, hope and charity founded on the Love of God, the dignity of all human beings and the preservation of creation? Decide today whom you will serve.

Then the people promised Joshua,

“We will serve the Lord, our God, and obey God’s voice.”

Joshua 24:24


Dear Jesus, open my eyes and ears so that I may recognize evil, lies and deceit coming from false god’s and train my heart to hear only your voice. 

Joan E. Derrig-Heacox

Seeking God’s Presence – Healing the Wounded Heart

Spiritual Direction available in person or phone by appointment.

[email protected]   330-760-6759  919-435-1694

The Work of Our Lifetime

For the week ending on August 5, 2012  18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

So they said to Jesus,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God,
that you believe in the one he sent.”

John 6:28-29

This is our work. To believe in … be persuaded of, put confidence in, depend on, build on, cling to, understand, intuit, trust, and to know in our heart. Believe in the one he sent! Believe in the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. Believe that the actions, words and presence of Jesus Christ will be our joy, bring us abundance and give us peace. Our work, the works of God, is to seek Jesus as a way of life, through prayer, scripture, sacraments, life experiences, service and people of faith so that we believe. To believe is an intention, an act of faith, hope and love, not a passive acceptance. To believe in Jesus is the true desire of our heart, seeking the one who calls us. Our hearts will not rest until we believe, know, trust and cling to the one God sent, Jesus. It is the work of our lifetime.

Dear Jesus, help me to do the work of God, to believe in you with all my mind, body and heart. Amen

Favors Granted through Adoration

Thank you, Jesus, for friends that love, support and pray for me through challenging situations.

Thank you, Jesus, that I may sit in the silence of your peaceful presence.

 Spiritual Direction available in person or phone by appointment.

[email protected]



Bearing our Pain in Peace

  17th Sunday in Ordinary Time:  For the week ending on July 29th, 2012

“I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,

with all humility and gentleness, with patience,

bearing with one another through love,

striving to preserve the unity of the spirit

through the bond of peace;”

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:1

 At the first sign of conflict, we often raise our armor in defense; ready to protect, defend and attack all who challenge our authority, ideals and territory. The heart palpitates, adrenaline surges, muscles quiver and anxiety accelerates our call for battle. Our thoughts may shout for vengeance but our heart weeps with sorrow. How do we live caught between the desire for anger and revenge and the call for gentleness and peace? “Justice is mine,” says the Lord. Paul urges us to pause, in the presence of Jesus Christ, breathe, and remember who we are and how we are called to serve. Allow the heart rate to slow, the adrenaline to pass, the muscles to relax and the spirit of love to penetrate our being. United with Christ, let compassion and humility direct us to a peaceful resolution that serves first the weakest and most vulnerable involved. May we bear our sorrow and burdens with faith, hope and most of all, love.

 Dear Jesus, increase in me a heart of humility that I may seek resolution through compassion and peace. AMEN

Joan E. Derrig-Heacox

Spiritual Direction available in person or phone by appointment.