I noticed something at this year’s Extravaganza.
All of the themes for the different “main stage” sessions were really well received. But there was one that stood out: “Holding Grief.” The live chat during all of the sessions was very busy. But when this session started, and the speakers started doing their work to unpack the theme, share their stories and open their hearts, at first there was kind of a “quiet” in the live chat. Then it was followed by people entering words of affirmation: “Yes.” “Uh huh” “Absolutely” “So good”… and then people began identifying their emotional reactions. The phrase “ugly crying” was entered into the chat many times. Then at the end, there was a phrase that popped up much more often than I would have expected: “I didn’t know I needed this.”
I didn’t know I needed this. That is a powerful statement.
We have a cognitive understanding of grief. We know what it is to grieve, and we’ve all walked with people during their times of grief. However, we’ve all been, I believe, so connected and tuned in to the grief of others, that we have been unaware of our own grief. We have shelved it in favor of others. That is not, by the way, necessarily a bad thing, at least in the short-term. But if it goes on too long, then it begins to eat away at our own spirit. And we all know what it means when we are trying to fill the cups of others, while our own cup is empty.
Our grief is real. We grieve seeing people we care about. We grieve the loss of the programs, ministries, trips, camps, vacation Bible schools, retreats, classes, small groups that have been a daily part of our work. We grieve what COVID has done to our own lives and families. We have been isolated, and have been forced to learn new ways to be. If you have a family, they have been affected, and we carry that with us as well.
Some have had their hours cut, or have lost their calls altogether. Others have seen support systems wither up.
We have all experienced loss. And this session, “Holding Grief,” reminded us that we need an opportunity to grieve, to work through the emotions around what we’ve experienced.
“I didn’t know I needed this.” Sometimes, being given permission to grieve reminds us that as beloved children of God, we need to grieve. Because it is when we attend to our grief that we can be reminded of the gift of hope.
This session at the Extravaganza (and the other sessions as well) reminded me that we all need to find ways that we can process the emotions we experience because of the world in which we live.
- Who is the trusted person (away from your congregation) that you can talk with?
- How do you find ways to worship (instead of thinking about your “job” while worship goes on?
- When do you pray?
- When do you read scripture?
- Who prays for you?
- Who do you trust?
I am hopeful that you have answers to these questions. And if you do not, then I suggest that you find people and resources to tend to your spirit.
We are not meant to be alone. And the ministry of faith formation is not meant to be done in a vacuum. Find your colleagues and friends and covenant together. If you’re not sure where to look, start in the Network’s Facebook group. There are people there who experience what you experience and who care for your heart and your ministry.
Now we know we need this. Now we should all take steps to create space in our relationships to hold, and tend to, our grief.
God’s peace friends,
Executive Director; ELCA Youth Ministry Network