Grief Hunger

We planned for up to 15 people to attend the weekend grief seminar at the church. With a couple of weeks to go, the minister called to tell me fifty had registered. They all showed up, participated and expressed gratitude for the chance to be a part of our time together.

A woman showed up for an eight-week Navigating GriefLand group at a retirement community 25 miles from her home. She didn’t know anyone there, but her daughter saw the announcement on social media. She shared it with her mom, who was willing to drive fifty miles round trip every week to find help and support.

You don’t have to listen for long or look far to find the great “grief hunger” in our communities. 

It’s not just the person who lost their spouse this year. It’s the one whose spouse died two, three, or five years ago.

It’s not just the person whose child, of whatever age, died. It’s also the person whose child is estranged. 

They don’t talk about their grief often because they feel ashamed that such a thing happened in their family and are mystified as to why.

It’s not just the adult child whose parent has died. But it is the adult child who has to distance themselves from a family member or their entire family because the connection is painful, toxic and sometimes abusive. It can be awkward in these situations when people ask about holiday plans.

It’s the person whose pet died and they feel uncomfortable about making a big deal about it. But, in truth, they deeply grieve the loss of their companion, entertainment, exercise partner and source of unconditional love. 

Or it’s the person who lost the pet that really belonged to their late husband, wife or child. Losing that last living connection to their loved one is like losing them all over again.

It’s the person who is part of the fabric of their church, faithful in giving and serving but, most of all, in loving God and people, who grieves each Sunday as the gatherings get smaller and smaller. 

It’s the one nurtured in faith through the work of a denomination, who now grieves at the sight of it splintered or struggling.

It’s the person who grieves the loss of a faith that once had all the answers but could not withstand the questions that life brought. They want to believe but are unsure of what to believe. Their journey often means the loss of a faith community that was once the center of their lives.

You don’t have to listen for long or look far to find the great grief hunger in our communities. 

I list these different kinds of grief and more at workshops and seminars. Without fail, someone approaches me at a break, thankful to see their grief acknowledged and needing to tell me their story. 

You don’t have to listen for long or look far to be overwhelmed by the grief in the world. There are so many losses everywhere, and the planet itself is wailing. It can become paralyzing if we allow it.

I’ve found healing to be the antidote. It is in doing the work of our own healing and as we have the opportunity, to create spaces of healing for others. 

For over two decades, I have staffed residential grief workshops. People ask me how I can spend hour after hour with those in deep grief. 

My answer is that it’s not just about grief. It’s about the healing.

On the last day of the workshop, participants look different. Their faces and their spirits are lighter.

If you are a minister leading a church, pay attention to how you talk about grief. Normalize grieving. Normalize grieving for any loss that touches our hearts. Utilize resources like Stephen Ministers, Navigating GriefLand groups, and speakers from your local hospice for support and help on the path of healing.

As an associate minister, I once had someone from hospice come to talk with our grade school students about loss. Some parents couldn’t understand why we were offering this to children. What did they know of grief? It turned out that every child in attendance was grieving some kind of loss: grandparents, pets or friends who were moving away.

Normalize grieving. Normalize the breadth of losses that touch our lives. Do what you can where you are with what you have to offer support.

Grieving people are hungry.

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