Holding Space for Good Friday Grief
You’re invited to hit play and listen to this post, instead of read it. If you choose to read it, read it as you’re listening
Today is Good Friday. It’s a day we pause and remember the crucifixion.
As we are journeying through Holy Week, I was asked to respond to two questions:
1) What is one message of care or comfort you’d like to provide?
2) what’s one thing you’ve learned already in the midst of the pandemic?
A Message of Care
Here’s the message of care I’d like to share with you this Good Friday
As I consider sitting at the foot of the cross, standing in the crowd watching what was unfolding, or simply hearing the news of Jesus’ death, just as the first disciples did, I pause at these words from Matthew’s gospel.
From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” Matthew 27:45-46
Even Jesus was expressing grief.
And that’s what I’d like you to consider today. The grief you’re experiencing. Yes, the grief we encounter in the cross. But this year, likely more than any other year, consider the grief you’re experiencing because of the pandemic. And before you say, “I’m not grieving..” I invite you to go with me as I journey through what grief sounds like for me right now. It’s likely different for you, but I pray, as you sit at the cross with Jesus today, you’ll experience both the reality of the cross and the outstretched arms of a Savior’s love.
You, Grief, and Good Friday
This was the quote that got me thinking about you, grief, and Good Friday.
“We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. The world we knew is now gone forever.” – David Kessler
Wait, is he speaking of Good Friday or the pandemic?
The message seems to hold true to the message of the cross as well as the message of the pandemic.
He was speaking of the pandemic.
But when I heard those words and like anyone who has ever experienced loss, I wanted to place my hands on his shoulders, look him in the eyes, and say, “No. no. no. no. no. no. no.”
But he wasn’t with me. I was hearing those words on a podcast.
Can I imagine what the disciples must have felt? Yes. I can sit at the cross. Or maybe I would have left the scene. Would I have been busy trying to tie together loose ends or holding a space for others to grieve.
I wanted to reverse what he said.“No, the world we knew is NOT gone forever.” I still live in the same place. I still have meaningful work. Jesus, tell me, how is this happening?
And then I realize I’m bargaining. If I can just prove what is still the world I knew before this pandemic, I won’t have to accept that it’s gone.
A little voice in my head says, “Bargain much, Sara B?” Sara B, that’s what my mom calls me. The words are gentle and loving and confrontational all at the same time.
You see…Bargaining is a classic part of grief.
The World We Knew Is Gone Forever
I hit the “back 15 seconds” button on my podcast player and hear the words again, “The world we knew is now gone forever.”
Who are you, MR. Grief Expert, to tell me “the world we knew is gone forever.” I don’t care that you worked with Elizabeth Kubler Ross on the stages of grief, written books on loss, and making meaning of loss. You’re making me mad. If I’m honest, I’m tossing and turning in bed, angry that you’re keeping me awake. Angry that I’m thinking about this now. I’m trying to go to sleep. Why are you doing this to me?
Go ahead, laugh. Ask the question you’re asking. Ok, I’ll ask it for you, “Who hit the play button on the podcast as you got in bed?”
Of course, there is only one answer. I did.
Who has been avoiding listening to this podcast for a week?
Again, I’ll raise my hand and fess up, that was all me.
Who didn’t want to hear the words, “We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew. The world we knew is now gone forever.”?
Here I am, raising my hand…again… that’s me.
So instead, I’ll toss and turn and try not to feel what I’m feeling. I’ll get all judgemental at the podcast host, Brene Brown, for interrupting her guest. I’ll judge David Kessler for trying to give words to my feeling because then I can offload the hurt I’m feeling. “Judgment demands punishment.” Heck yes, that I can get on board with, and right now, that judgment is directed at the podcast, at your words, at the actions you’re taking.
And right about here, if I could, I’d insert the sound of screeching brakes.
That’s What Grief Does
If all of that sounds horribly unkind, yeah, I know. It does to me too. But that’s what grief does. I bargain. I get angry, feel depressed, and have fleeting moments of acceptance. But mostly, right now, I want to deny this is happening.
It’s easier to hold it at an arm’s length distance. Just look at the Good Friday passages of scripture. You’ll see it there too.
And that voice I want to silence with the largest muzzle I can find says to me, “Sure you do. But it’s not easier…. Because if you don’t name it as grief, you can’t feel it.”
“Exactly.” I want to respond sarcastically.
I don’t want to feel it, I say in my best teenage judgmental voice.
Here’s the thing.
I’m in a relatively good place. I still have work, a home, I have food (albeit my cooking!). What I’m experiencing isn’t like a nurse, a doctor, a parent of the class of 2020. Who am I to feel grief?
“Who are you not to?”
Isn’t it great how our brains have the magnificent ability to recall information?
I grumble beneath my breath.
Shush. I say to that memory.
“You can’t shush me.” It responds.
You see, I know better.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, it’s the scaffolding of grief. I see it all around me. There’s no shortage of the scaffolding that makes up grief right now.
I see it in…
- the class of 2020.
- Moms and Dads trying to work from home and teach kids at home.
- friends’ posts on Facebook and Instagram.
- Zoom calls and text messages and I hear it in colleagues’ voices.
- grandparents standing outside windows.
- pastors praying on Facebook.
- Governors, Directors of Health, and Grocery store clerks.
- Doctors and Nurses.
- wives and husbands.
- aunties and uncles and sisters and brothers.
- my neighbors drawing with chalk on the sidewalk.
- the husband and wife having groceries delivered by their daughter.
- tv, social media, and in my email inbox.
I see it…when I look in the mirror.
And, dear one, so do you.
The world we are accustomed to is gone. Forever.
We are collectively grieving.
Said simply, “Grief is the death of something.” And, “just like every other loss, we didn’t know what we had until it was gone.” (David Kessler)
So as I coach Christian leaders, pastors and church leaders, it would be easy to say “This is what you do.” You lead others through loss and longings all the time. Yes, I do. So do many of you. But, this collective grief requires that I hold space for a virtual hug while recognizing there is no way I can get through this without you doing the same for me.
So what has changed?
Everything and nothing.
I still teach people how to leverage their strengths. I still am facilitating Brene Brown’s courage building curriculum, Dare to Lead. I’m still podcasting and blogging and attending Zoom meetings and posting a daily devotional to equip people to follow Jesus every day.
But what has changed is this: I’ve come to recognize that the work I’m doing is now happening in the midst of massive, collective grief. And to deny that reality is to deny the people I lead and serve the space to be human, to be whole, and to become who God created them to be.
Pause. Sit. Experience Transformation
So, maybe, this Good Friday you’ll pause a little longer. Maybe this Good Friday you’ll sit at the foot of the cross a little longer.
And maybe, as we move into Saturday and celebrate the resurrection on Sunday, you’ll experience transformation with the disciples.
My to-do lists to meaningful moment lists. What do I mean?
Instead of focusing on getting a task done, I focus on how this task facilitates a meaningful moment for people. I don’t always get it right. Because, like you, I’m experiencing loss. But here are a few of the meaningful moments I’ve tried to introduce to hold space for a virtual hug.
A daily email that arrives at 5:00 am inviting people to read a passage of scripture, reflect on a written story, respond in prayer. At 8 p.m., I post a question on Facebook, inviting people to name and remember how is God is with them. Sometimes the question is for one person. Sometimes for 25. The number doesn’t matter.
There are now weekly Facebook lives that are becoming meaningful moments to share, talk, and celebrate where God is moving. The podcast, emails, and three blogs a week are what we’re doing to hold space for others to make meaningful connections with one another, with God, and with their community.
Because what I know this Good Friday is this: the only way we’ll truly experience the transformative power of the resurrection, is if we hold space for one another to experience the reality of Good Friday.
Every blessing to you as we journey through these next three days and live into the promise of Easter.
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