Lenten Journey: Loss and Grief as Expressions of Love and Care
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
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