Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Moving Through the Mourning

We've stepped into this time of mourning over the decision to split made by NWYM. We may even recognize that mourning is necessary to properly heal and move on from a devastating loss. We might even acknowledge that if we don’t allow ourselves to mourn, and give mourning space and time for it to do its healing work, our grief may color any decision we make going forward in ways that we might ultimately regret.
But even if all of that is true, and we agree to give ourselves time to mourn before we try to discern next steps, that doesn’t answer the burning question. "How do we mourn?"(I know some of you probably don’t see that as the burning question. You would lean toward "how do we respond to this?" That may actually be an indicator of the way you are wired to mourn—more on that later."
Dr.s Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin have identified two prominent categories of mourning. As it is in most cases, categories in real life are never nearly as clean as categories in academic theory. It might be more helpful to think of these as two ends of a spectrum with a particular individual's method of mourning falling anywhere along this spectrum.
  • Instrumental Mourner—Instrumental mourners tend to process their grief mentally and physically rather than emotionally. In the case of a death in a family, the instrumental mourner would be the one who jumps in to make funeral arrangements and handles all those little details that others find overwhelming. In the case of a terrible tragedy an instrumental mourner might join a group like M.A.D.D., or campaign for a stop sign at the intersection where a fatal accident occurred.

In our situation an instrumental mourner might mourn by analyzing how yearly meeting arrived at the decision it did, or how it might have been handled differently, how we might avoid the same mistake. Or how we should approach a decision making process ourselves.
  • Intuitive Mourner—Intuitive mourners tend to process their grief emotionally. They tend to be more comfortable with their emotions and are more sensitive to how they feel and others feel. In the context of a death or tragedy, intuitive mourners are the ones who weep openly and talk candidly about their feelings. To others they may appear to be devastated by the loss.

Along with these two ends of the mourning spectrum, another type of mourning has been identified.
  • Dissonant Mourner—Dissonant Mourners tend to hide their feelings to protect whatever public image they want to project. This may be a person who strongly feels the need to vent his/her emotions because nobody else seems so deeply affected. It might also be someone who feels a sense of relief after the death of loved one after a long and agonizing illness. He or she might feel guilty about not being grieved enough.

Dissonant mourners can show up anywhere on the mourning spectrum.
So, if each individual mourns differently, how do we help each other through the mourning process?
  • Give each other grace—Remember, everyone mourns differently. It is not uncommon for intuitive mourners to see instrumental mourners as unfeeling or hard hearted. It is also not uncommon for instrumental mourners to see intuitive mourners as weak. Let it be okay that others mourn differently than you do.
  • Give yourself grace—Let it be okay that you mourn differently than others.
  • Tell stories—Storytelling seems to be one activity that is healing no matter how one mourns. It appeals to the instrumental mourners need to analyze and reflect, while giving intuitive mourners a way to feel and express.

When my family gathered to view my Dad's body before his funeral, we were ushered into a small room to wait while the funeral director set up the casket for viewing. I was leaning against the wall looking out the window. I was caught up in my own thoughts as was everyone else. I happened to reach into my pocket and when I did I felt my pocket knife. The feel of that pocket knife in my hand brought back a flood of memories of my Dad saying things like, “every man should carry a pocket knife. You never know when it will come in handy." And later when I worked for him, him asking me, "where is your pocket knife?" Or saying, "if you had your pocket knife with you, you could fix that problem."
I pulled my knife out of my pocket and held it in my open hand looking at it. This caught my brother's eye. An almost imperceptible smile crossed his face as he reached into his pocket and retrieved a small pocket knife. One of my brothers-in-law whose first job had been working for my dad, pulled out a pocket knife as well. This initiated a time of story telling that allowed us to share our mourning together.
I invite you to share your stories and memories, pleasant or hard, of camp, retreats, summer yearly meeting, shared events with other churches—anything that connects to NWYM—as a way to share our mourning together.

Grief is a part of being human, and mourning is a God-given way to express that grief and share our humanness. Psalm 34:18 promises, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit."  I pray that we not only allow mourning to do its healing in us, but also help us to allow space for God to be present with us.

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