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.
I explore each of these distinct grief vectors in Chapter Two of The Spirituality of Grief. Truly, that’s why I felt compelled to write this book for those who remain — to clear a path to solace and hope with the help of spiritual practices.
Grief. The term comes from the French word greve, or burden. Grief is an all-consuming, involuntary response — emotional, physical, social, and spiritual — detachment from someone or something that has given us meaning, such as a relationship, vocation, or home.
Grief is a burden on our very being.
And it goes by many names — loss, bereavement, sorrow, mourning and grieving. And I think the word loss feels inadequate and flimsy somehow — like it minimizes the gravity of grief’s weight, but it has become the go-to expression in society’s grief lexicon. Reminds me of a young woman in one of my workshops I mention in the book. Her father had recently died, and she said:
So many people have told me they are sorry for my loss. Umm, my father
is not lost. Believe me, if he were, I’d be looking for him. He’s dead!
Allowing these uncomfortable feelings, such as resentment and anger to bubble up is essential, too. However, reaching for the right tools can help you notice your feelings and process them as part of a new way of being in the world. One of these tools is the second spiritual practice: Savoring the Word. It’s inspired by an ancient prayer called lectio divina or Latin for “divine reading.” Established in the sixth century as a monastic practice by Benedict of Nursia, lectio divina is a meditative practice that deepens prayer and strengthens our communion with God or our higher power. It helps us slow down, be fully present, and find meaning in sacred rhythms of reading, reflecting, responding, and writing.
If you'd like a copy of the practice guidelines, just fill out my Contact Form or you'll find it in my book.
Choose literature, scripture, essays, or poetry. In my section on this, I include an essay from Elaine Gantz Wright, who writes on grief, called Grief’s Fault: Finding Hope on the Other Side. Read her piece here.