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.”