Hospital & Institutional Chaplain – Grief Support – Funeral Officiation – Spiritual Guidance – Memorial Services – Ethics Consultation
Harold William Vadney III, M.Div.
Interfaith Pastoral Care Provider
By Arrangement Through Your Service Provider
Phone: (518) 479-0525
(518) 466-4482 (24/7)
These are three very misunderstood words in our language. It’s worth a try at explaining them. Let’s start with Bereavement.
As we go through life we experience experiences; for most, the goal of life is to experience what we call “happiness” (whatever that is). But whether happy or unhappy, there is the everpresent state of anxiety. Yes, even when we’re happy we’re anxious that we’ll lose that happiness. Then what? The basis of our anxiety is what we perceive as “loss.” Loss of anything we value is what we fear. We fear loss of happiness, job, respect, our favorite stuffed animal, power, love and loved ones. Put simply, that’s what bereavement is in a nutshell: loss of something we value.
Moving on…when we experience loss, loss of anything we value, we naturally grieve that loss and the set of emotions that steamroll us is called grief. The process of experiencing and processing grief is grieving, and how we do it is called grief work.
So what’s grief, anyway? The best way I can describe “grief” is by offering an illustration:
Did I say grief is an emotion? Well, correct that. Grief is a big black nasty ball of emotions, all wadded up, and intermingled. And they appear at random. So forget all that lunatic textbook nonsense of sequences of grief emotions; the emotions just don’t surface in a straight line or in an orderly sequence. They just surface.
Grief, like any deep wound, takes time to heal. Grief like any serious wound needs assistance to heal. That’s why we have pastoral care, bereavement and grief facilitation, pastoral counseling and psychological counseling for when the grief gets rough. But under uncomplicated circumstances the human being is wonderfully adaptable and manages to heal naturally. Some persons heal their grief in the short space of a year, others might take 2 years. Still others need some help with managing it.
You may think you have it licked when suddenly on an anniversary, a birthday, a holiday, or at that special place you get hit with a baseball bat: you’re crying and grieving again. But wait, that’s natural. It’s bound to happen. So let it. Roll with the punches.
One final remark on grief and grieving: No two persons experience grief in the same way. No one know’s another’s pain. Your grief is yours and yours alone. As a pastoral care provider would I take your grief away if I could? No way! Grief is part of life and once healed, has amazing transformative value. Believe it or not, grief is good and works good things in the human being. I won’t say ‘Enjoy your grief!‘ but I will say “Find meaning in it for yourself” appreciate it, give it meaning, and be forever transformed by it. We crush a spice to get the best out of it; sometimes God crushes us to get the best out of us. Reflect about that. (You don’t have to agree, just think about it.)
Mourning is how we grieve publically and culturally. While as humankind, we generally share most of the same emotions in grieving (but expressed differently, perhaps), our mourning behavior varies considerably within our own culture and in other cultures. Some cultures are very demonstrative in their mourning, others are very subdued. All are correct and in a pluralistic society as diverse as the one we live in, we have to learn to appreciate and respect all expressions of mourning.
After the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria set the stage for some very elaborate mourning customs. Following Victoria’s example, it became customary for families to go through elaborate rituals to commemorate their dead. This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish (and expensive) funeral, curtailing social behavior for a set period of time, and erecting an ornate monument on the grave. Elaborate mourning customs are by no means limited to the Victorians!