Back in the dead of winter I was a guest at a family luncheon in memory of a member who had recently passed away. It was a grieving exercise, hosted by a husband who had lost his wife. It was one of thousands of events in this man’s life in which he took his marriage vows to love his wife in sickness and in health seriously. It was a simple affair reflecting the wishes of his wife as well as the needs of those who live on in her absence. During our time together he leaned over to me and confessed, “I just can’t stop crying.” It wasn’t a question but the tone and manner in which it was made solicited assurance, “Is it okay that I am crying so much?”
I had recently read Final Journey by Maggie Callanan. One of the final chapters in her book is titled, “Doing the Grief Work Day by Day”. Out of years of work as a hospice nurse she shared advise she gives her clients, “The better you grieve, the worse it feels, at least for a time. Just get down to it and do it. Cry often and do it with gusto. Get help if you need to. Grief will control you less as you express it more. It will get better, as will you, day by day.” (Page 287)
This is great advice because we only get through grieving by grieving. When we suppress it, deny it, or expend a lot of energy trying to control it; grief will simply find another way out and too often it results in us paying for it physically. Grieving is a very personal experience and the way we grieve is very personal. Some of us are loud and “out there” and so our grief be loud and “out there”. Others of us are reserved and we deal with every emotion in a quieter, more private way. Mrs. Callanan’s advise isn’t suggesting that we have to grieve in any particular manner, she is simply saying, don’t suppress it, don’t try to control it, grief is meant to be expressed, the expression of our sorrow is cathartic, like the valve on a pressure cooker, our emotions “depressurize the inner turmoil that loss creates and by feeling those feelings authentically, we move through our grief instead of getting stuck in it.”
There are many things in life that many find easier to do in the company of others. The support of others who are experiencing and have experienced similar losses often helps us with our own grief. Here in the Steinbach area we are fortunate to have two chapters of “GreifShare” a grief support program that has supported many people through their losses. (www.griefshare.org)
The groups are supported by two of the churches in Steinbach, Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church and Southland Church, but are available and intended to be a service to anyone needing grief support. The groups are not covert proselytizing arms of the churches that offer them. They are offered because these congregations have members who realized a need and who decided to offer something to meet the need.
The format is nonthreatening. The group meet, watch a series of 13 videos on topics related to the process of grieving. After the video there is a discussion led by the group facilitator and plenty of time to support each other. The group is designed to allow people to come into the group anywhere in the 13 week cycle so you need not wait for a new group to begin. So if you are grieving, grieve. If you need support, avail yourself of it, there is joy on the other side of the valley so keep moving. And don’t forget, when you are walking in the valley of the shadow of death – God is there – reach out to him and let him walk with you.
Chaplain's Corner is written by Bethesda Place chaplain Larry Hirst. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer and do not represent the views or opinions of people, institutions or organizations that the writer may be associated with professionally.