Taking time to grieve

March 11, 2021

‘Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch.
To love, to hope, to dream, and oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this, love,
But a holy thing to love what death can touch.
12th century poem
I am taking some time to grieve.

My uncle died recently from complications due to COVID-19 and I realized I was storing up a pile of sorrows, like an unkept corner of my house that I had decided was not central to my daily living; I had been placing grief in a pile for “later.” So, I am taking some time to grieve and look more closely at this “corner of sorrow.”
I have found that there are labels to things I place in this corner: things I don’t have time for; things that are too much; things that make me vulnerable, fearful, or ashamed. Some of us have grown up in a culture that narrows, to a trickle, the stream of emotions that are acceptable and favors packing the corners of life with these “unacceptable” emotions. I keep learning that “nobody puts Baby (or emotions) in a corner.” At least not for long. (Sorry-not sorry for the “Dirty Dancing” reference!)
So, I pull my sacred sorrow work out from the corner and into the center of the room and sit down to enter the territory of my heart where I find a tangled web of grief. My guide for this work has been the book “The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief” by Francis Weller. In it, he shares five “Gates of Grief”:
• The First Gate: Everything we love, we will lose.
• The Second Gate: The places that have not known love.
• The Third Gate: The sorrows of the world.
• The Fourth Gate: What we expected and did not receive.
• The Fifth Gate: Ancestral grief.
I now have five questions in the center of the room that knit me back into wholeness. Five gateways of grief that I rotate through for my prayers of lament this Lent.
There are daily losses that surround us, and a world heavy in the corners of grief. I am choosing to take time to grieve; you are welcome to join me.

Four steps of lament

What is lament if not “a prayer in pain that leads to trust,” says author and Indiana pastor Mark Vroegop. He names four steps for lament:
1. Turn to prayer. When pain creates struggles or hard questions, lament invites us to talk to God about it. Even if it’s messy or awkward, lamenting is better than faking it or not talking to God.
2. Bring our complaints. Lament invites us to bluntly tell God our questions, fears, and frustrations. There is grace in this minor-key song as we get honest with God, knowing that biblical laments ask gutsy questions: “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (Psalm 77:9)
3. Ask boldly. Calling on God to act in accordance with God’s promises runs parallel with our complaints. Pain can create disappointment, but lament provides the language that dares to hope again. Lament invites us to ask for help—again and again.
4. Choose to trust. The destination for all laments is an affirmation of trust in God. Gut-level, honest prayers provide a pathway for hurting people to move through their pain. Laments are not cul-de-sacs of sorrow, but conduits for renewed faith.

Access seven-day prayer practice using these four steps

 Jody Thone is director of leadership development for the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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