“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.
In the darkest of hours -- in the yin of our yang — that’s where we most appreciate the light.
I love what the late theologian, minister and writer, Frederick Buechner, taught me about ministering to those who have experienced profound loss. He shared that the most impactful thing he can say is — nothing at all. He has learned that his silent, loving presence has more power than words ever could, because this allows the Holy Spirit or Higher Power to seep into every breath— and wrap both tender hearts in compassion and light.
In addition to sitting in silent witness, I have discovered the surprising alchemy of spiritual practice and intention. Like exercises for the soul, spiritual practices can help us strengthen spiritual connections, like muscles, making them more tangible, so we are better equipped to care for the fraying edges of our tattered hearts.
Ten Spiritual Practices
Regardless of the specifics or nature of your loss — no two are alike, not even for you, the ten spiritual practices we will explore together in the Spirituality of Grief will give your fragile spirit the strength and the stamina to discover ways to carry the pain — as you also begin to allow yourself to experience glimpses of joy. You are alive, and life is grace. These rituals also will help you honor your loved one in significant and meaningful ways.
Yet I know it’s not an easy road. You may be questioning everything, including the effectiveness of activities like these. That’s normal. You might be questioning the meaning of life. The whys of death. The very existence of God and how to carry on.
Just as every grief is unique, it is also as complex as we are human. But we are not alone, and there is no right way to grieve. Exhaustion, guilt, anger, resentment, depression, shame — these are the real and raw facets of this sacred path, and that’s why spiritual connection is so vital.
With these most universal and the intimate of truths, the healing comes from sharing, rather than hiding your story. We don’t move on but move in — noticing grace here and there along the way. That is what helps us carry the sorrow.
And so, we start with the fundamentals — breathing. And prayer. Breath prayer. Faith traditions across the globe know the importance of breath, part time-honored spiritual practices for generations and centuries. Also, meditation, sacred prayer and the examen — manifesting the strength to feel God.
It starts with finding your footing — nurturing the connection to your loved one that is eternal and everlasting and to the greater comfort in the universe and all creation. When we bear our sorrow, we not only carry the sadness of loved one’s death but also, the stories of their life.
Here is a preview of the exercises ahead. Follow my blog, so you won’t miss a moment of grace or peace.
2.Savoring the Word
6.Nature Walk of Sit
7.Prayer of Lament
To start, download a complimentary version of the first exercise in The Spirituality of Grief, by joining my sacred circle. Sign up on my Contact page and I will send you a breath exercise and notify you when other tools are available.