“Because I could not stop for Death…”
It’s been ringing in my head this week, first with news from Nancy Kiefer that her mother died, then with the word of Gus Schumacher’s sudden death. I’ve had no choice but to stop for Death, to give thanks for lives well-lived and well-loved, even in the midst of preparing for World Communion Sunday.
As with any death, the church will keep you posted with any information regarding services. Given the number of you who have expressed your concerns, and who are surrounding Susan Lively with your thoughts and prayers, here is a little of what I have learned about grief.
- In the midst of immediate grief, we need to stop what we’re doing, if only for a minute. Even if we’re the kind of people who like to stay busy, we need a conscious break from regular activity and work. Studies show that grief works on our bodies and minds at a subconscious level, altering brain activity around mood, perception and memory, even vital organs like the heart. It’s our body’s way of telling us to slow down and pay attention to what we’re feeling.
- We all grieve differently. One family member may be in tears, another unable to cry. One friend may want to talk nonstop about their friendship with the deceased, while another needs silence to remember. When someone I love dies, I prefer to be alone and to clean out drawers and closets. However you grieve, claim it. Someone’s else’s grief may feel inappropriate to you, but if it does not risk bodily harm or mental health, honor their particular style. It may change tomorrow, and that’s ok, too.
- Whatever the circumstances, when we grieve, we are on holy ground. Scripture is clear that at the death of his close friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. The apostle Paul reminded the Christians in Rome to mourn with those who mourn. If we are open to it, grief can bring us closer to God, to the eternal, to the endless cycle of birth/life/death/new life, and God’s own suffering in that process.
If we give ourselves the time and space to pay attention, we have all we need to give thanks for what was good in our relationship with the person we have lost, to seek healing for our unfinished business, and to take stock of who we have been and who we are becoming.
Just as the persona of Dickinson’s most famous poem becomes acquainted with immortality and eternity, in our grief, we have the gift of stopping to consider what lies beyond death, with what can never die. In your grief for a loved one, may you discover God’s love that never ends.
Grace and peace,