Grief is one of the most common human experiences and one of the hardest to navigate. Grief can feel as painful as a physical wound, and have as much power to affect our daily routines as a form of paralysis. When grief has a grip, we feel like we are moving in slow motion, while the rest of the world is speeding ahead.
Death is one cause for grief, but not the only one. We grieve when there is a separation or divorce; when our children leave for kindergarten or college; when we are forced to depart from a job or a community; when our home is an unsafe place to live; when we are betrayed; when a beloved animal dies; when we receive a difficult diagnosis about our health; when violence destroys our sense of safety; and when power is misused at our expense.
No matter how we get to the place of grieving, grief needs tending. Without attention, the emotions that emerge can be debilitating and can impact our future health and the significant relationships in our lives.
The first step in healing grief and coming back to life, is awareness and acceptance. Rather than telling ourselves to “get over it” or that “other people have it much worse.” or “its been long enough, time to move on,” healing and comeback require being gentle with our selves. There is no correct time frame for grieving and no proper way to feel.
Reverend Laura is able to reach out to children in a meaningful and personal way. When PopPop passed away, Reverend Laura conducted an unforgettable celebration of his life for family and friends. It drew us all together in celebration of a very wonderful man who made a difference in the lives of all he knew. She realized, however, as we were planning the celebration, that his grandchildren, from infancy to age 10, needed to honor PopPop in their own way. Reverend Laura invited the immediate family, including all of the grandchildren, to gather the day before the scheduled service. Each child brought a memory of PopPop in tangible form: a photo, a bust of Lincoln, a favorite tie, a baseball. We sang a few of his favorite songs with Laura leading the singing with her guitar. The children were invited to set up an altar for PopPop as they shared their collected items and their thoughts. That altar would be the centerpiece for the next day’s service. We talked about where PopPop was and how his love would always be with them.
During this time, most of the children were listening very attentively. The five-year old, however, was wandering around the area seemingly disinterested. We now know, as Laura knew all along, that he was absorbing it in his own way. To complete the experience, Laura produced a bare tree branch standing erect in a vase. She told the children it was our prayer tree and that it was a place where we could attach prayers for PopPop. She provided a bowl full of cut ribbons. The children were invited to tie a ribbon on a branch and state a wish, or a prayer, or a memory. They all approached the task with some timidity except the five-year old who tied on prayer after prayer, each with a spoken thought to PopPop. Laura had helped him find a way to connect, a way to remember his grandfather. Our family is so grateful for the support and guidance that Reverend Laura provided to all of us and most especially to the children who really needed a different, age-appropriate way to mourn. Reverend Laura reaches out with love, understanding, music, and (yes) puppets and children respond. What a gift!