May 17, 2020 – Collective Grief
Over the last week during my retreat called “Second Mountain” which was coined by David Brooks for his last book of the same name, I have been talking about how life is often lived on two mountains. The first mountain is our youthful days when we are trying to define who we are, dominated by a quest for one’s self; one’s own identity; one’s own wealth; one’s own status in the world. The second mountain is defined by living a life for others. We are not focused on ourselves nor on our successes, wealth or power. It is less about the destination and more about the journey.
But between two mountains there is the valley and often that is a valley of darkness and loss. I suggested this week that we are currently experiencing a collective “valley of loss” because of the coronavirus pandemic. In this valley, we have loss so much. We have the loss of normal. Loss of routine. Loss of work. Loss of physical touch. Loss of privacy or personal space. Loss of boundaries. Loss of expression to be individual. Loss of freedom to go outside. Loss of physical connection. Loss of community and worship. Loss of everything we have ever experienced as right and normal. Yes, there are some massive losses here. So, what are we to do?
David Kessler co-author with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross of “The Five Stages of Grief and Grieving” suggests that we need to grieve all those losses both individually and collectively in order to do what we need to be aware of the process of grieving. I reminded the retreatants and now you that those stages are descriptive and proscriptive. By that I mean they are not linear and we may not go through those stages in a linear fashion. Just like any grief we will cycle through the stages in unpredictable way. Those stages are 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression/sorrow, 5) Acceptance.
These stages are a scaffolding that helps us understand what we’re going through. Kessler reminds us that “each person’s grief is a unique as their fingerprint but what everyone has in common is that no matter how we grieve, we share a need for the grief to be witnessed. It doesn’t mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them.” In this time of collective loss, it is important to realize that we all experience these losses differently and we will be in different stages of grief. For example, 8th graders graduating from Holy Spirit School are experiencing probably the biggest loss of their lives. As a result, we need to honor that and we will need to patience and gentle with each other.
I invite you to watch the last two series and join me for the next two. I truly believe we can transform our community and our society into something far better. That will require of us to be thoughtful and prayerful; and to be deliberate about climbing the second mountain together.
This coming Tuesday, May 19 and Thursday, May 21 at 9:30am. We will also schedule guided sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, to allow further reflection, prayer and to pose your questions.
Please join us as we all climb this second mountain and let our God break through.