Sunday Morning Musings: May 27 will mark my final Sunday worship in a regular “call” relationship within The United Church of Canada. Of course, any ending brings with it a bitter/sweet experience. On the other hand, an ending can also mean a new beginning. Yet, regardless of the circumstances, any ending results in some sort of loss and any form of loss means there will be grief associated with it.
Rather than talk about my particular grief I want to muse about grief in general. Mitchell’s Funeral Home offers a quote from Leonard Cohen that I find thought-provoking: “The broken heart illuminates a path, and it is a different path for each broken heart” (Leonard Cohen). As I ponder this quote it reinforces for me that grief is unique for us all. Yet I also know that there many commonalities to our grieving. Today, I want to focus on one such common element of grief.
It has been my experience over the years of journeying with those encountering grief to know that the broken heart mentioned by Cohen, does not really ever heal. Grief was once described to me as being like working on a jigsaw puzzle and throwing the whole thing in the air but when it came down one piece was missing.
Because the heart never fully recovers and even though we must continue to go on with our lives and living, we can never be sure when we will once again feel the sorrow of our loss. I, and many others, have described this idea of grief as the “wave effect”. Quite some time ago I was invited to go fishing (when I lived in southern Nova Scotia). We were in a 20 foot long dory doing some hand-lining. It was a marvellous morning and the Atlantic Ocean was as smooth as glass. Then without warning I looked behind me and noticed a wall of water approaching. I could see nothing else but the huge swell that I was sure was going to smash into us. A moment later, we were sitting atop that same swell and all seemed fine again.
When folks described events that happened to them, not only in the first couple of years but many years after the initial loss, it was common for them to mention the idea that they felt “overcome” by something connected to their loss. Sometimes, the event that cause the moment of devastation was as simple as seeing a bird or hearing a song or even a word. Long after the feeling that we are past the initial loss, we are still affected. The saving grace is that over time we learn that it is okay to feel the grief and though it is never totally gone we will be back on top and life will go on.
It is important that we continue to learn about this thing we call grief. There will always be uniqueness to it – and we will each walk a different path. Yet, along that path there will be those experiences that others have also known. What is most important for us to remember is that grief is a normal reaction to loss. Grief continues as part of our lives but does not have to govern those lives. We should also remember that even years afterward grief will still be present and that too is normal. Like most elements in life, our response is the issue. It is vital that we recognize and acknowledge grief and let ourselves feel the loss and continue to grow.