Richard Niebuhr uses the metaphor of a shipwreck to describe those life experiences where what we thought would hold comes apart. A marriage ends, a career collapses, an illness shatters plans, a loved one dies. Pastors and congregations can be a lifeline.
Our culture, however, is mourning avoidant—and too often, faith communities reflect the broader culture's misconceptions surrounding grief.
When we talk about grief, we often speak of it in terms of letting go, moving on, and getting over it. People want to know when they will be back to normal. But the loss of a loved one is not a bump in the road that we go over and then the pavement is smooth again. Grief fundamentally changes who we are.
When my mother died early on a spring evening in 1993, the ladies of the garden club and the bridge club gathered around my family to stand sentinel over the old-fashioned ritual of paying calls on the bereaved.