Faith Formation Focus: The Healing Power of Grief

October’s theme is healing.  What a beautiful concept and something that is needed in all of our lives. I have been a reluctant student of grief lately, and though I realize that I am barely skimming the surface of the full depths of human suffering, I am ready to be done with this course (find some healing) so I can move on to an easier unit!  My recent hardships are nothing unique.  This fall my daughter moved away to go to college, my favorite aunt died, my dear brother is in the throes of a horrific divorce, my mother is literally loosing her mind… and the list goes on – all very Universal trials.  Since I am helpless to “solve” any of these problems I am trying to make peace with loss and sadness. I know that “all sunshine makes a desert” and sorrow it is part of every life (as sure as rain is part of the weather) but I still hate to be unhappy and want to know the quickest path to healing!

My first line of defense against sadness has always been to be optimistic and cheerful.  These deterrents have served me well in the past but lately in the midst of trying to sweep sadness under the rug so I can get on with my happpy life, I am jolted into a realization that putting off suffering can slow the process of healing.  Slowing the process of healing is something that I am not interested in being about.  The other day when I was vacuuming my daughter’s now empty room and feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders I remembered that Rachel Remen had some good things to say about grieving so I looked up her words.  Here is some of what she says,

“Grieving is the way that loss can heal.  Yet many people don’t know how to grieve and heal their losses.  This makes it hard to find the courage to participate fully in life.  At some deep level it may make us unwilling to be open hearted or present, to become attached or intimate. We trust our physical bodies to heal but how might you live if you did not know that your emotional self could heal?  Many people have become emotional couch potatoes because they do not know they can heal their hearts. Grieving may be one of the most fundamental life skills.  It is the way the heart can heal from loss and go on to love again and grow wise.   If it were up to me it would be taught in Kindergarten, right up there with taking turns and sharing.”

She talks about how suffering can be a doorway to transformation and how the way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else.  I know she’s right.  So how do we grieve?  I mentioned in my chalice lighting that I am a big fan of crying things out. Hard work and good friends can also offer solace.  I am also happy to know that Elizabeth Kubler Ross has outlined a process or a road, so to speak, which most people travel to get to a better place when it comes to experiencing loss.  Her five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, grieving and finally finding acceptance.  The chapters of grief in my life were much darker to transverse before I was made aware of this process because I like to know that I’m getting somewhere.  At the end of the day I am grateful that grief can lead to healing and even transformation.  I am grateful to be a Unitarian Universalist where we can explore these things further and be there for one another in this healing process.
Janen Wright Director of Faith Formation