Familiar with Grief

By Regina Girten, Pastor of Outreach

"Wonderful news for the mourners! You’re going to be comforted.
I am here with you. Waiting to fill you with my overflowing joy! I know it doesn’t make sense right now, but it will comfort you and give you strength." - NT Wright

God is with us in our mourning. And I wonder, have we been here before? Certainly, none of us has been through a global pandemic. But Pastor Jacob named something we are all feeling: Grief. Even if some of us haven't realized it yet, we all are experiencing varying layers of grief. Likewise, in the past we have all experienced grief or gone through trying times. What brought you through those moments? What and who did you rely on? What did you produce out of that grief?

I was talking with one of our church members recently. He's a hero among us. His name is Bob Carrizzo. He mentioned having served in the military in times of war and stepping through certain decades where our country experienced trying times. He said it all with such ease. His wisdom reminded me to consider when I have journeyed through difficult circumstances. The ease in his tone reminded me that on the other side of those trying times, I am still here. Complete. Whole. Alive. Full of Life. There IS hope.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made land fall in New Orleans, LA where I grew up. In an instant I was disconnected from my family and entire community. I was in Oklahoma City for my sophomore year of college and no one's cell phones were working. We couldn't get in touch with one another. I remember how I felt watching TV in my on-campus apartment. I can still recall how that grief felt in my body. I can even remember how long it lasted. We were disconnected in those moments, but in reality we were all still very connected in our experiences.

The church I attended, Rayne Memorial UMC, had significant damage in our historic building. While our sanctuary was being rebuilt, the congregation gathered in the fellowship hall. Members of the congregation and our pastor, Callie Winn Crawford, used two wooden beams from the rubble and created this magnificent rugged cross. In reflecting on Pastor Jacob's words, I saw that imperfectly perfect cross in my mind. It took two years, but our congregation gathered in the sanctuary again. It took three years, but my family and I moved into a new home. It took ten years, but the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina didn't sting quite as much as it once did.

Nothing can erase that experience, but, with a willing spirit, it has shaped, molded, and prepared me for other life circumstances. We all have life experiences that, should we have a willing spirit, can aid us in stepping through these days and not only guide us in our grief but lead us to resilience. In that resilience, God will guide us in how we can use this grief for the greater good of God's Kingdom. But we have to be willing to step through to where God is guiding us. We have to take the next step.

In the week to come, may you reflect on the lessons you already have within you to see how God can comfort you in your grief and walk you to healing and wholeness.