How has your week been so far ?
Mine (like yours, too, no doubt) has been full :
- full of activity
- full of emotion
- full of kids (!)
- full of learning.
I was reminded recently that Jesus led a busy life. The gospel writers describe a busy life, and Mark, in particular, makes note of Jesus’ busyness. That thought helped me – busyness is not all wrong – but we hope that as we go through our busy days there is a calm and a purpose inside ourselves coming from the certainty that heaven rules the world and rules our lives. Let’s let God fly the airplane !
I was pleased with your positive reception of the message last Sunday from Daniel 7. It was a difficult message and one that left Daniel feeling somewhat ill at ease. Daniel 8 (this Sunday) takes us further into God’s revelation to Daniel (and to us) of His plan for the future. It’s an exciting chapter ; not only does it lay out God’s plan in more detail, but it presents to us a definite course of action to take in the troubling days of the world’s end.
I hope you will join Pastor Jeff and me on Friday, November 1, for a Day of Prayer at the church from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. I long to have an extended time of prayer with as many of you as possible as we reach a midpoint of fall ministry at Emmanuel. Certainly, the messages of the book of Daniel call us, at the very least, to pray. Take time to fill out a prayer request card on the table at the south end of the main hallway at church, near the offices. You may sign it with your name or leave it anonymous. On November 1, we will pray for your personal needs and for ministry needs at Emmanuel. Our format will be simple : each hour we will take time to draw some encouragement from Scripture or some helpful material on prayer, then we will simply pray for what God has laid on our hearts. If you want to use the church that day for some quiet personal prayer by yourself, please take advantage of that quiet time.
Yesterday, I was in St Charles where I attended a 3-hour seminar for hospice workers and clergy on grief and how to care for those who are grieving. It was presented by Dr. Alan Wolfelt who is an author, educator, grief counselor, and death & grief expert. (At least, I think I recall him using that terminology ! Imagine being an expert in death and grieving ! He was a tremendous speaker.)
The material was a help to me personally and also as a pastor. I would like to share some of my notes with you below. I hope they might be a help to you as you either grieve some loss yourself, or as you try to understand and help those who are grieving. Our culture is changing rapidly – grief and mourning are viewed more and more as negative experiences to be avoided … when in reality they are necessary experiences for us to move forward positively in life. Some people have to do “catch-up mourning” later in life because they never went through the ordinary mourning process when they needed to. (In fact, Dr. Wolfelt said that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is, for some people, “catch-up mourning.”)
Tomorrow would have been Diana’s 52nd birthday. It’s the first one we will spend without her. We still have such good memories from a year ago of wheeling her out to the dinner table to present her the gifts we had bought for her and to share a few minutes of angel-food birthday cake. (Although she barely weighed over 100 pounds, she was on a no-fat diet at the time, battling issues following her stay in the ICU.) She didn’t feel well enough to stay at the table long, and following the celebration we wheeled her back to her hospital bed in the back room of the house. As Dr. Wolfelt said, before you can say “good-bye” you have to say “hello.” Revisiting the memories is, for my family and me, one way of saying “hello” before we say “good-bye.” We look forward to a day of saying “Hello !” again, and, even more so, of saying, “How do you do ?” to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notes from “A Homeopathic Approach to ‘Companioning’ the Mourner,” by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, October 23, 2013.
There is a difference between grief and mourning :
- grief : an internal response to loss ; the thoughts and feelings I experience inside of me
- mourning : a shared response to loss
- grief “gone public”
- emotions we share with others
- experiences such as viewing the body of the deceased, wearing black clothing, sharing our love-stories about the person we miss
- Mourning sometimes brings a paradox of emotions : laughter and tears at the same time.
- Authentic mourning is necessary.
We currently live in a mourning-avoiding, emotion-phobic culture.
- Emotions of grief are often referred to as negative : “Are you over it yet ?” “Buck up !”
- In our feel-good culture, feeling sad, mad, depressed, or in despair is seen as regressive … and may need to be “treated,” especially with medication.
We live in a “death-free” society. Many of our young people are sheltered from the death of family members and close friends. We are less familiar with death, illness, and some parts of the aging process. It’s possible today that a person may be forty years old and have never attended a funeral. Funerals are being replaced by “celebrations” (even parties in places like California). We are quickly de-ritualizing death in America. Whereas in times past, a body may have been laid out to be viewed for a day or more, today wakes and funerals and even grave markers are less accessible to mourners who need them. There’s no need for a marker if someone’s ashes are kept in an urn on the fireplace mantel (to be given to whom after you pass away ??) or scattered across some body of water. Today, we remove the body quickly so as to minimize emotion. And yet, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). Ceremony, rituals, and remembrances slow us down and obligate us to experience healthy grief and mourning.
Grief symptoms are a natural expression for healing.
- Grief is not an illness or a disorder.
- We have to say “hello” before we can say “good-bye.”
- We have to go backward before we can go forward.
- We will be in the dark before we go into the light.
- Affirmation of the loss must precede integration of the loss.
- Grief doesn’t resolve itself. It can’t be managed ; it manages us. The only way is through it.
Successful mourning …
- doesn’t disengage from the deceased person (“You have to let her go.”)
- doesn’t deny forms of continued relationship with the deceased person (“You’ve got to have closure.”)
- doesn’t happen in neat, identifiable stages (a linear model).
The six central needs of a mourner are :
- to acknowledge the reality of the death
- to embrace the pain of the loss
- to remember the person who died
- to develop a new self-identity (“Who am I going to be now ? The other person was a mirror to me.”)
- to search for meaning (“The other person gave me purpose in life.”)
- to receive ongoing support, now and always
- to have their love-story with the deceased person held up and honored by other people.
The time period of 18-36 months following a loss is a time of heightened vulnerability for mourners.
Yet, often our message to those we know who are mourning is : “I want the old you back (and as fast as you can get it back).”
For someone who is grieving or mourning, about 1/3 of the people they know make them feel better about their situation ; about 1/3 of the people they know seem to be neutral in regards to their loss ; and about 1/3 of the people they know cause them to feel worse !
May you and I at Emmanuel be among those who know how to bless and serve the mourners in our communities and families. What a tremendous opportunity to shine the love of Jesus in a fallen, dying, and challenging world !
Hope to see you Sunday ! Our final adult class for October will begin at9:00 – hope to see many of you there. Great worship at 10:15.
Don’t forget Discovering Spiritual Maturity 201 begins Sunday, November 3, at 9:00 for all adults. There will be childcare and activities for children ages 3-11. Middle-schoolers, highschoolers … is there someone interested in leading worship for your age group that morning at 9:00 ? Either I or Pastor Jeff would be happy to give you some ideas for that, I’m sure !
Yours with thanks,