For those who are grieving
There is no loss like that of a loved one
You may think to yourself, “I look like me, but I feel different. Everything in my life is changing; the way I react is different. What is happening; am I going crazy?”
No, you are not going crazy. You are going through the intense, frightening and difficult emotional experience known as grief. Grief is a process experienced over time, and it cannot be rushed. We all have to grieve over the loss of friends, relatives and loved ones. It is not only the loss of persons, but also the loss of our ideals, visions, plans, paces and our youth that we grieve.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross named these stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a grief educator and counselor, identifies six needs that mourners have during the grief journey.
- Need to acknowledge the reality of the death.
- Need to approach the pain of loss while being supported.
- Need to remember the person who died.
- Need to develop a new self-identity.
- Need to find meaning in what has happened.
- Need to experience continued support in future years.
The grieving process can open new and unexpected ways of experiencing God. Grieving may best be supported in the context of a faith community. Simply put, as people, we need each other. We need our churches and congregations to provide us with support by bringing gifts of food, listening, crying with us, and sharing in the funeral and memorial services. We live in a culture that is uncomfortable speaking about death, and I often hear people say, “I don’t know what to say.” I recommend simply saying, “I’m sorry.” Then listen. Every grief process is unique, and listening is the best way to find out what a person needs.
May we all have the grace to reach out to those who are grieving, and to receive when we are grieving.
Ann Mason Bach, RN, BSN, M.Div., is a Team Leader at Hospice and Community Care in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a member of the Stevens Hill Church of the Brethren, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
This article was originally published in Connecting Generations, a monthly publication of the Church of the Brethren’s Older Adult Ministries Program, and is reprinted with permission. Individuals age 50 and older are invited to learn more about the Church of the Brethren’s biennial National Older Adult Conference at brethren.org/noac or on Facebook.