I recently heard grief educator, Bradley Vinson say “Grief wants to be witnessed.” We are grieving so many losses right now. Many of us are grieving the loss of a loved one or a life-limiting diagnosis or the loss of employment, health, or relationships. Some of us are grieving something less concrete at this time (connection, continuity, security, perceived sense of control, safety, sense of self). As a hospice chaplain and grief care specialist, I have learned the importance of creating safe and brave spaces for the sharing and witnessing of grief.
Our Blue Christmas gathering will allow us to hear and hold our losses in both conversation and prayer. One of the places I like to begin in grief care is with guiding definitions of grief.
Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. In itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.
Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Grief is what you think and feel on the inside after a significant loss. Mourning is the public expression of those thoughts and feelings.
But textbook definitions only take us so far, often personal stories, images, and poetry capture it so profoundly. Here are a couple of expressions from grievers:
Grief is feeling like the world isn’t safe anymore. Like there is a tragedy or danger around every corner. Since I lost my husband, everything feels unsafe and unstable. - One of my clients
Grief is like the ocean; it comes on ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim- Vicki Harrison
On Thursday, we’ll spend time discussing our own definitions, conceptions, and images of grief. And also witnessing the grief of those gathered with us. Please join us at 8 PM on Thursday, December 10.
Zeena Regis has worked in hospice and palliative care as a chaplain and bereavement coordinator since 2012 and currently works as Spiritual Care Coordinator for Symponia Hospice. Her training includes a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Agnes Scott College and a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary, where she was honored with the HJ Riddle Memorial Award for excellence in pastoral care. Zeena is the founder of the Threshold Planning Project and also a frequent contributor to Presbyterians Today. She lives in Decatur with her spouse, teenager, and two spoiled pups. Keep up with her at ZeenaRegis.com.