Forum on Faith: When grieving, it’s OK to be still
“Be still, and know that [He is] God.” This meditation, from Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman with updates by Jim Reimann, is a part of a daily reading that helps to ground my faith and inform the work I do with bereavement support groups. After sharing this with the group, one of the members stated, “I can do that. I can be still. I don’t think I can do much else but I can be still.”
Many times, individuals come to bereavement groups seeking the magic potion to cure their beleaguered feelings. They want to not feel sad anymore. Everyone’s journey is different. Some people’s journey to emotional acceptance/wellbeing may be very quick. For others, it may last a lifetime. Over time it will get easier. Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God will always be there for us. If you have experienced a long or deep relationship, the memories, the love and the essence of the person are not going to just fade away.
Grieving individuals do not just get over a loss. It is work to process the loss, hard work. We encourage people to give themselves permission to grieve. They need to be kind to themselves. Unfortunately, society doesn’t always give people time. Generally, people are allowed to grieve for a week to two. Then they are expected to get back to school, work and life in general. If feelings of depression or grief last longer the recommendation is to see a counselor, pastor or a trusted person who can assist. Certainly, these are important and useful recommendations. However, I question, “Why can’t grieving people just be still? As a society shouldn’t we be as accepting of grief and depression as any other emotion? Why does it make everyone feel so uncomfortable to talk about death?” It is in talking and sharing that grieving individuals are able to move forward.
In bereavement groups, people are provided with skills and supportive measures they might find helpful in processing their grief. Some of which are common but some may surprise you. A senior high school student who was doing their experiential project at our agency suggested — writing a letter to the person who died. Many of the articles have suggested this along with journaling. However, the student then suggested a step further. Upon completion of writing the letter, read it aloud to someone. Reading aloud can be a cathartic experience. Most importantly, it allows the reader to more fully experience and express their feelings.
When grieving, it is important to care for yourself. Give yourself permission to be sad, cry and be angry. It’s okay to take time out for yourself. Matthew 11:28-30 serves as a good reminder to self-care. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Allow others to help you take care of yourself physically by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and not drinking too much. Alcohol may assist in dulling pain, but you do not want to bury your feelings. It’s also important to get adequate rest. You also want to allow yourself to feel the pain. Facing the pain will assist you in moving forward.
It’s also important to remember the benefits of humor and laughter. Psalm 30:11 says, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” Laughter strengthens our immune system, lowers blood pressure and improves alertness. It also increases endorphin levels, promotes resilience, and just makes it easier to cope with difficult situations. Mark Liebenow, a nature and grief writer, states in his blog, updated May 22, 2017 – “Laughter and Grief- grief takes us to a place where we honor our dead. Laughter helps us reclaim the goodness of their love. It also opens our hearts to each other.”
These are only a few suggestions and topics that are discussed in a bereavement group.
For anyone dealing with a recent death, there can be a need to celebrate getting through each minute in a day. That’s okay and if the only thing you can handle is being still, let yourself know that this is OK as well. “When you become weak through the fierce fires of affliction, do not try to ‘be strong.’ Just ‘be still and know that [He is] God.’ And know that he will sustain you and bring you through the fire.”
Stephanie Shaughnessy is a master of social work, volunteer and bereavement services coordinator at Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Fairfield County and a member of Congregational Church of New Fairfield, UCC.
Written By: Stephanie Shaughnessy