Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives: Grieving Is Hard Work but Shouldn't Be Ignored

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives: Grieving Is Hard Work but Shouldn't Be Ignored

Article excerpt

A phone rings, or an email arrives, or a loved one rushes to your side. The news breaks like a television announcer's grave announcement: "We interrupt this broadcast" There is a jarring change in tone, and the world stops moving. However the news about death arrives, it is nearly always a shock.

One afternoon when I was about 14, a telegram was delivered to our house. I felt like I had been transported back in time. Gerald Ford was president and Ray Stevens was singing "The Streak." A telegram? It recalled images of a telegraph operator in the Old West.

It was from an elderly great-uncle who was simply using the technology he knew. Its staccato tones were reminiscent of a diplomatic cable: "Sad to report that your Aunt passed. Arrangements pending." You could nearly hear the words "stop" in between sentences.

Delivering unwelcome news is not easy. Across my ministry, I have learned that "Your mother died" is more than a declarative sentence. Whether the recipient is 8 years old or 60 does not matter. The message brings reminders that death will touch all of us. Of this Benjamin Franklin was correct: The only certainties of life are death and taxes.

At least we can try to legislate taxes.

The great deduction death brings has been a part of our congregation's life this winter. By my math, our small congregation has lost about a dozen extended family members, friends and a couple of members since late December. Judging by the funerals I have led for folks who do not have a church affiliation, these number are not unique. Death is ever present, an uninvited guest whose arrival is not always expected and never wanted.

Death is just one form of loss, however. There are many other losses in our world, which only add to our experiences of grief. We grieve a changing economy, a fractious political system, racism, sexual harassment, the loss of status. Or perhaps I should say we mourn these things. Few of us are particularly adept at grieving, and many do everything in our power to ignore, deny or set aside grief. …

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