In Stephen Grosz’ book The Examined Life there is chapter entitled “Upon Closure”, which considers how people who have suffered a bereavement often feel pressure to bring their grieving to an end and experience “closure”. Often this pressure comes from the self and can lead to feelings of guilt or depression when the grief abides and won’t go away.
It is only in recent times that the word and the idea of “closure” has come into prominence. When someone dies at the hands of another, we often hear the mourning relatives say that in order to have “closure” they need the guilty to receive justice – usually execution or a lengthy prison sentence. “Closure” covers much modern thinking about bereavement, about putting the past behind you and moving forward.
I tend to agree with Dr Grosz when he describes it as “the fiction that we can love, lose, suffer…and then do something permanently to end our sorrow”. Grief has a habit of sticking around, even when we think it has gone. It can return unexpectedly for a variety of reasons, and when it does it can trigger painful emotions of loss and sadness. Grief is the flipside of love – they are two sides of the same coin. To grieve means that we have first loved.
People grieve at different times and in different ways: whereas one person may grieve deeply from the beginning, others may only grieve properly much later. Think of those given the task of arranging the funeral, deciding on tributes, letting the wider family know etc – grieving may only begin in earnest after the funeral. This can be the time of greatest need and loneliness; therefore the support of family and friends is vital at this stage. Often the need can be simply for someone to be alongside the one who is grieving. Our society expects people who have been bereaved to take a set period of time – I heard the other day someone say “two weeks” (!) – to get “back to normal”. The fact is that grieving can take one, two, three years – in some cases it can last a lifetime.
While grief causes sadness, it can also bring us closer to God. Through prayer, worship and Christian fellowship, we can call on God’s strength when our own fails us. It is easier to cope when feelings from grief are shared with another person who understands and can offer support.
At St Barnabas this support is available through our Being with Grief Support Group which next meets on Monday, September 30 at 12 noon. The church also offers fully trained and commissioned Stephen Ministers who will listen and pray with anyone who is struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one. If you would like one of these ministers to be in touch with you, please contact Leslie Walker or Sr Cassandra who will allocate a person to come and see you. The Stephen Minister is someone who knows the power and love of God to heal and bring solace into wounded lives. They operate in strictest confidence and their motivation is simply to help another human being in need and to be a friend in God to them.
Sr Cassandra or Leslie can be contacted via the office on (302) 994 6607.
With love and peace,