From The Rector…
My mom came to church at Ascension this past Sunday. She wanted to see the new puppies we just got (Petunia and Archibald—eight-week-old Basset Hounds) and to see us. She has had a hard time getting back to church since my father died a little over a year ago. She went with Steve to St. Paul’s once and she has been here a couple of times, but church is challenging. She and my father never missed a Sunday and have always been very involved in church—it is the thing they have consistently done together all their life. Church represents so much of what she has lost with the death of my father and it is hard to face that.
Loss and loneliness can keep us from reconnecting or reengaging with the things that we once loved. We feel out of step with everyone else and have a difficult time figuring out our new identity in those places we once experienced as a couple—or a greater part of a community. In the last few months, I’ve had a few people mention to me how difficult they found leaving their church—they loved Ascension and yearned for the community that Ascension offers, but the loss of their home parish and identity was a bit overwhelming.
The loss of a loved one and the loss of a community both inspire grief. They are not the only events in life that cause us to grieve—divorce, moving away, selling a house, sickness, and the list goes on. That grief is often thought to be in appropriate or unnecessary. We tell ourselves that we are grown people and we just need to adjust. We put our head down and push through trying to pretend that everything is ok. But it’s not.
Covid has caused a lot of grief these past two years. That grief has turned inward because we didn’t know that was what it was or weren’t sure if we were allowed to express it. The inward turning of grief leads to anger and anxiety—it doesn’t go away just because we bottle it up. That anger and anxiety seem more appropriate and acceptable ways of dealing with the pandemic but until we name the grief that we have felt and allow ourselves to grieve for the losses of this past year—be they the loss of a loved one, the loss of a church home, the loss of time and potential—we will not be able to move through this pandemic into the state of spiritual, emotional, or even physical health.
To grieve is to embrace our own vulnerability and express the hurt that a loss has caused us. We only know the hurt when we have known love. None of us grieves for a thing we did not love—none of us hurts unless that which we lost was rooted in love. The grief that we feel and the willingness to face our feelings of grief and then work through them takes time, courage, and strength of heart. But working through our grief can offer us light in unexpected ways.
This past Sunday, I didn’t think about the fact that Steve and I had given the altar flowers in memory of my father, his father, and our grandparents. In the middle of the procession, I realized I hadn’t given my mother a “heads up” and got a little anxious that I might cause her more grief. I shouldn’t have worried. Though it did stir her emotions, she told me that it also gave her a certain amount of peace knowing that he was present last Sunday—it was a little light in an unexpected way.
Work through your grief—especially in regard to this pandemic. We are all experiencing some sort of grief and many of us have internalized it and turned it out on those things which care deeply for but that have let us down. When we think about what we are frustrated with in these past two years—masks, social distancing, staying home, school, work, church—its important to remember that part of that frustration lies in your grief. And maybe that is the starting point—embracing our frustrations instead of turning on them.
The dimmer light is getting brighter. The Great Pause is almost over. Don’t let your grief cause you to miss out on the joy and peace that can still be found in all the world around us. Who knows—God might even surprise you in unexpected ways.
Light and Life,