On Thursday, May 18, Zeena Regis, the Faith Outreach Manager at Compassion & Choices and Fran shared a valuable, rich conversation. They discussed how spirituality and grief can influence end-of-life decision-making. Watch their full discussion here.
What is grief? This is a daunting question, even for a pastor, and spiritual director — because a person’s grief experience is as unique as their fingerprint. Relationships, circumstances, and contexts are myriad in their complexity, and they intertwine in an unlimited range of scenarios and emotions. But the one thread that typically binds them is love — and as some say, love unexpressed. Grief’s magnitude is so often proportional to the love we feel and will always carry.
Within this boundless container of love, the permutations can be infinite — grief that’s complicated, anticipatory or even disenfranchised.
Parched and Languishing
Afraid this was who I would be…forevermore…after the death of my Mom. I know that spell check thinks it should be a lower case “m”; but, hey, it’s my Mom with a capital M.
Then late one night at the office (because I hadn’t been able to complete any task during the day), I pulled from my mailroom cubby an unprofessional looking beige flyer. I remember thinking, “If I was a flyer, I’d look just like this.” So, because of the personal connection established, I began to read. The flyer was advertising an opportunity to participate in a spiritual formation group. Words like authentic,
compassion, and community were on the page. These words, plus the bold typed contemplative soul
care moved me to tears.
“For even while we mourn, we do not forget how our life can join God’s larger dance of life and hope.” -- Henri Nouwen
I love this quote from Henri Nouwen, because I think it perfectly and poignantly captures the bittersweet essence of the grief journey and the hope life can bring.
So, welcome to our journey into The Spirituality of Grief: Ten Practices for Those Who Remain. At first, my title might give you pause. You might think, “How can grief possibly be part of a spiritual practice when it sinks me into the deepest morass of misery, pain, panic and paralysis?” No argument there, but I have found in my work as a pastor, spiritual director, grief educator and human being that this is precisely where we encounter the most durable kind of faith — and where we are most likely to encounter God.
Spouse Caregiver, Fran Tilton Shelton, Shares Her Story in No Winter Lasts Forever
The 13th century poet, Rumi, acknowledged in a poem about love “though the pen wanted badly to write when it came to Love, its nib split apart…In the end only Love could explain itself and what it is to be a lover.” As I attempt to explain my love for Bob by tapping patterns of consonants and vowels on a keyboard, Rumi’s words resonate with my feelings of inadequacy. I simply adored the man.
The Story Behind the Story
A literary hankering glommed onto me early in my ministry. When parishioners encouraged me to publish prayers penned from my heart, I’d feel my soul expand. Then Bob, my husband and former homiletics professor, would add, “What about including some of your sermons, too?” Yet my personal fear of failure and incessant insecurities would successfully pry loose the hankering. Reality would speak up reminding me, “Pastors will fly across the country to preach but won’t walk across the street to hear a sermon.”
I was recently interviewed by VoyageDallas.com about Faith & Grief Ministries and my book. Check out the article here at voyagedallas.com.
Thank you for joining our book club, here are some discussion tips & questions for your book club or for reading on your own to ponder.
Tips for Your Book Club Discussion
Approach the time together as a way to get to know one another on a deeper and more intimate level by being vulnerable and sharing your experiences, reflections, and hopes.
If we grieve the way we live, describe how you process grief and life. Are you a: