Fridays at 2:30 Richard and I meet with residents in the Manor Chapel at St. Paul’s Senior Homes for Grief Group. One Friday, we met and Richard was out of town, so I was the single facilitator. As usual, I prepared the opening prayer and closing prayer, and introduced check in of the folks who attended, and offered up a topic for discussion about where they find themselves this week in their journey of walking together through grief and mourning into the new reality of their lives. We are chiefly relying on some wonderful books by Dr. Alan Wolfelt that I’ve mentioned before all about companioning (walking with) those whom we meet with in their journey towards their new normal; life without their loved one.
This week’s topic is about respecting disorder and confusion. “True companioning means: respecting disorder and confusion- staying present with each other in the disorientation that is a natural part of mourning, not trying to figure it out; not trying to understand, or trying to make it better. Recognizing it is a natural unfolding process that will eventually result in re-orientation.” There are 4-5 “regulars” who attend…one man and 3-4 women.
We’ve been talking a lot over these last few weeks about how everyone in the group are in different places in dealing with and accepting their loss in life. Two of the women lost their loved one after they had entered the Memory Care unit at St. Paul’s and suffered an injury that eventually led to their death. So they were dealing with the guilt they felt over not being able to take care of their loved ones at home AND the grief they had in losing them forever .
One woman, “Mrs. P”, was dealing with the tragic death of her 40 year old daughter; she most often sat in the group meetings and said very little..when asked if she’d care to share any thing with the group,she’d say, “I’m not ready yet”. And Mr. D was dealing with the death of his younger brother who resided with him at the Manor for a number of years; they were inseparable. He rarely shared his feelings or memories about his brother, he mainly offered words of comfort and faith to the others, with very little concern for himself.
This particular Friday, Mr. D joined in the discussion with, ” I don’t understand why God didn’t take me first instead of my younger brother. I am the oldest in my family. Everyone else is gone. I’ve had a good long life. It should’ve been me! What need does God have for me here? I should’ve died – not him!”
It wasn’t long until Mrs. P spoke up and said, ” My daughter had children and a husband and her whole life ahead of her. It’s not natural for your children to die before you do! I am so numb, life holds no joy for me.”
Sitting in that circle, I was filled with compassion and love for these people. It hurt me to see them struggle with this pain.I knew it took a lot of courage to say how they were really feeling- in a culture that wants us to “get past this and move on”…
Then, I remembered why I was there, and how I am walking with them through this to the different reality that was waiting for them on the other side of this grief and sorrow they were suffering, that they can’t avoid, can’t get past … they must go through it in order to find peace and healing. I remembered that Jesus sent us out “two by two” to be his voice and presence in the world.
And then, I realize that at this moment, at this meeting, I am witnessing and joining them in their walk through this ugly, painful sorrowful time- through this- to their own new reality, and I feel as pleased as a new mother would at seeing their children take their first step, then another, then another. What courage for that little one- to attempt to do something they’d never done before. What courage for those in the group- to attempt to walk through the very thing that frightens them the most. And then I recall our opening prayer…
“O God of peace, You taught us that in returning to you and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: please be with us now as we journey together towards healing and grace.
By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to Your presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God;” . Amen. – adapted from BCP. (pg. 832)