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A Grief Observed

May 19, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

During this time of enforced distancing I want to increase my communication with you on matters that are of pastoral concern to all of us – either in our own lives or in the lives of those we serve.

I am aware that a large part of our present experience is dominated by varying levels and types of grief.
Firstly, and most importantly, there are bereavements which have occurred either as a result of COVID-19 or during its course. In either case we have often been prevented from being with those who have died because of restrictions on visitation and personal contact. Several of our clergy colleagues have experienced this in their own families and our prayers are joined with theirs as they live through this additional burden of grief and separation.

There are other losses resulting from this epidemic that we and others have gone through. These include for hundreds of people their jobs and their financial security, separation from lonely and aged relatives, and the normal forms of social contact which we count on for support and encouragement. For church people there is the loss of regular church gatherings and opportunities to worship and pray in one another’s company.

For young people there is the loss of normal school and college attendance and the fear and anxiety of how this will affect their future lives. The list of losses goes on and on in every area of our lives and our relationships. Of course we have been able to make up for much this through online,media, telephone and written contact – but there is still a profound sense of isolation and separation to deal with.

Our typical human response to all of this is grief. Remembering Dr. Kubler-Ross’s work on the stages of grief, we encounter, and live through, anger, bargaining, depression, resignation and, hopefully, eventual acceptance. In my experience there isn’t a quick way through this process. It calls for a very necessary but difficult type of patience and endurance. We Christians pray a lot.

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis’s beautiful book A Grief Observed and want to pass on these passages from it:
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program……
“We were even told ‘Blessed are they that mourn’ and I accept it – I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for……
“Grief gives life a permanently provisional feeling……..
“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted..
“We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least…….
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape…”

Kind thoughts and many blessings,
JOHN