Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Good Grief, Not Again!

I look back at that last post and think to myself, “Dang, am I pitiful-sounding or what?!”

I used the word “grief” in the post, and it occurs to me that our family is truly grieving. It means that we’re going through the same process that we’d go through if we’d lost a loved one, or faced some other disaster. That would explain my alternating feelings of anger, depression, guilt, and resistance.

So I pulled out a small, thin book that I have carried throughout my ministry as a pastor. It’s a book called “Good Grief,” by Granger E. Westberg, with only 64 pages and large print. I re-read it and was reminded that I am going through the same exact feelings and emotions that grieving parishioners I have counseled in funeral homes and front parlors have had.

I needed desperately to hear these familiar words of comfort again.

Westberg explores ten stages of grief, which he believes are simply a normal process for anyone experiencing loss. The first five have to do with physical, rather obvious signs of grief: “We are in a state of shock,” “We express emotion,” “We feel depressed and very lonely,” “We may experience physical symptoms of distress,” and “We may become panicky.”

But the last stages hit closer to home: “We feel a sense of guilt about the loss,” “We are filled with anger and resentment,” “We resist returning” – these feelings I understand. I have spun through these stages repeatedly over the last couple of weeks.

The truth about our leaving is that we are facing a couple of matters that have made it very difficult for us to do ministry. Not only do we have ongoing residency legal issues, but we have some people actively resisting our work. The Board finally decided that it would be safer for us to leave the country and accept reassignment; instead, we have requested a leave of absence from mission work, and will be returning to the Dallas area.

So, yes, we feel guilt – guilt over not being able to handle the situation successfully, guilt over not being able to manage. And there has been anger – which we’ve turned a number of different directions. And resentment – oh yeah, plenty of that.

It’s Lent now. But Easter is coming. Right around the corner. And so are the last two stages of grief: “Gradually hope comes through.”

And “We struggle to affirm reality.”