The importance of grieving a loss
by Debbie Cazander
It is an inevitable certainty that sooner or later everyone will experience a loss of some kind. As individuals we each have our own way of handling the associated feelings that accompany a loss, and over the long term some coping methods are more effective than others. This is the premise of the Grief & Loss seminars taught by Eve Isaak, a Chaplain and Grief Support Worker, as part of Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren church’s ministry of Grief Care in Abbotsford.
Isaak has developed four one-hour long seminars which she leads in a group setting on relevant topics related to loss and grieving.
The first and second seminars stress the importance of identifying losses and understanding the journey of grief.
Over the course of a lifetime we may have a multitude of smaller losses that leave an imprint on our memories. Some of these once caused trauma but have less effect over time. However other losses are not so trivial, losses such as a relationship breakup or the death of a loved one. These are losses that can be life altering and if not dealt with well when they occurred can remain, sometimes for decades, as more losses are added causing what some refer to as compounded grief.
It can be compared to what happens when one saves money over many years. The compounded interest causes the original sum to increase exponentially, which would net a positive result for the one saving the money, but not so for the one who has added loss upon loss upon loss. Much damage is done when there is no grieving.
Following a seminar one attendee told Isaak, “I listened to you and thought I was done with my grief but realize I haven’t.”
Others also recounted losses that had happened several years before for which they had never fully grieved but had suppressed the feelings. For one person it was after the recent death of a loved one that the weight of pain for another significant loss from many years before came to the surface. This individual said, “Today I recognize that I need to work through my grief. I can’t bury it any longer.”
Speaking of the people Isaak has met, she shares that it is important to “allow them to grieve” and to not overload them with information at each seminar but to give them enough to think about and contemplate over until the next seminar.
Looking at the dimensions of grief and mending the heart are the third and fourth seminars. Understanding the feelings, thoughts, physical symptoms, and behaviours associated with the grieving process goes a long way to normalizing them and helping the grieving person to realize that what they are going through is all part of the journey. It is important to note that not all experience grief the same way. It is a unique and individual experience for each person. A heart consumed by grief can be mended, but it will never be the same as before. At some time in the journey “the death and loss become integrated as part of your personal history” and “In your grieving process, you are moving your focus from a focus on death and toward life.” from Our Journey From Grief written by Eve Isaak
Following the four seminars, Walter Wiens, Pastor of Care Ministries at Clearbrook MB church leads a session on the theological aspects of loss and grieving and shares many references in the scriptures to people grieving. Most importantly to the Lord Jesus himself who openly wept over Lazarus, the lost, the city of Jerusalem and – even in the old testament book of Isaiah – was referred to as being “acquainted with grief.” Jesus knows about the crushing weight a grieving person can feel when they wonder how they will carry on in their life without their loved, one or the piercing pain of loss when a memory suddenly comes to the forefront of their thoughts. All of these feelings are not too much for Him to hear about from those who grieve.
Focusing on the resurrection and celebrating the life of the person who has passed on can be therapuetic, and while it is true that much joy awaits the believer upon their passing, at the same time it can be acknowledged that the grief can be like a deep valley of sorrow and pain. According to Wiens, “Many of our funerals have become celebrations of life” with an attitude of ‘celebrate and move on’. This can at times leave those most intensely in grief feeling they are misunderstood and even alone.” Wiens adds, “The best approach to grief is to walk with people – not to fix their grief.”
The Grief & Loss seminars can be booked for any church group or care home in the Lower Mainland and are free, those attending are asked to make a donation to the Clearbrook MB Grief Care Ministry. Individual sessions are available also for a donation to the ministry.
For more information on the Grief & Loss seminars or to book a seminar please contact Clearbrook MB church at 604-850-6607 or firstname.lastname@example.org and to book an individual session with Eva Isaak please call her at 604-302-3843.