A Holy Week Meditation on Grief and Comeback

  • March 31, 2015
Dear friends in Christ,
As I prepare to leave your wonderful congregation and you celebrate the return of Hannah as your beloved minister, I wanted to share my third  “Grief and Comeback” column. You may remember that this is a monthly column that is published in the Newburyport Daily News.Holy Week is the week we consider the impact of the death of Jesus. The disciples and all the women who followed him, were devastated by his death. Dealing with death and loss is an integral aspect of Holy Week.

And as Christians, we can call on our faith in the resurrection as a promise of HOPE waiting for us on the other side….

Grief and Comeback
March 2015
Rev. Laura Biddle

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Years ago, a young woman came to see me crying uncontrollably. Her six month old cat had died of a heart attack and she couldn’t stop the flow of tears. “I don’t know if I will ever smile again.” She said. “I can’t go to work like this. I just can’t stop crying.”

After a few teary counseling sessions, during which she spoke about her love for animals and for this particular cat, I asked her a question. “Did someone you love die prior to this death?”

She hesitated between sobs and then answered, “Well, my Mom died when I was six years old. But that was 30 years ago.”

Buried grief doesn’t dissipate. Unattended grief doesn’t go away. In fact, grief and all its manifestations, can be extremely patient, waiting in the depths of our souls for a moment to emerge.  Sometimes, it is another loss that sets the grief free. And curiously, the “other” loss is often a beloved animal.

One of my friends once said to me, “Some animals come into our lives as spiritual guides. When their job is done, when the work of their relationship with us is complete, they are free to live or die in their own time and their own way.”

Perhaps you have had the experience of losing an animal at a critical moment in your life. Maybe at the peak of a transition. Or at a time when you thought your life was starting all over again. Have you ever cried so hard over the death of an animal that you thought you’d never smile again?

You may have been experiencing both the sadness of the immediate loss as well as the buried grief of another one. When unattended grief lies buried in our souls, it finds a time and a way to rise. Grief is one of those soul-friends we cannot ignore. When we experience a loss, the wounds we hold from previous losses can open up again and ooze everywhere.

Shortly after my divorce 21 years ago, my beautiful and loving dog became very sick and had to be put down. Leaving the Animal Hospital, I thought I’d never breathe again.  In retrospect, I believe that my dog was a spiritual guide. He had come into my life before my marriage and he stayed with me to the end. When he died, I was in such a frantic mode of single-parenting, I hadn’t wept for the loss of my marriage. His death gave me permission to weep.

An exercise that might help you understand whether or not you are re-experiencing grief is to remember a loss. Maybe your grief is the result of a broken heart, a geographical move, a betrayal, or a health crisis. Write one former loss down on a piece of paper. Then under the loss, list some of the feelings that gripped you at the time. Maybe uncontrollable crying was one of them. Maybe you felt numb. Did you feel anger, confusion, or a sense that you might never smile again? How did you cope with these feelings? Did you get busy? Did you weep a lot? Did you hide inside your home?

If grief has been buried and left unattended, you may discover that you are re-experiencing this grief every time there is a new loss in your life. If this is the case, then I offer a blessing for your journey: Today, I welcome the familiar feeling of grief that has buried itself in my soul. By naming this feeling, I release it to the healing energy of hope. Bless me as I peel away the layers of grief and set my soul free. Help me love myself again. AMEN