Vale of Tears

Ceremonies that Facilitate Grief



Ceremonies that Facilitate Grief

Communities and nations erect monuments to mark particularly important moments in their history, and we too may find it helpful to celebrate our own landmarks – both the special ones and the more difficult moments. For example, there came a time when Rosalind felt that there was “one missing” in our family quiver. The Lord confirmed this, but tactfully did not mention the emotional roller-coaster that we would go through in the process. Before our youngest son was born we endured no fewer than five miscarriages!

We have no explanation for these losses. On each occasion, we had felt convinced that all was going well, and were taken completely by surprise when the loss occurred. The fifth miscarriage differed from the others in that when Rosalind passed the foetus, we were able to hold him, weep together, and hold a simple burial service. This made grief resolution easier than the more jagged experiences of the earlier losses.

Finally, we could bear the roller-coaster no longer, and set a “cut-off date.” One month before the point of no return, Ros conceived again. She was so wary by now that she conducted seven pregnancy tests to make sure that everything was still alright!

Our grief over these miscarriages was “clean,” in the sense that we had nothing to reproach ourselves with.

Many losses, of course, are more emotionally ambivalent. In the case of an abortion, for example, it may well prove helpful to devise some suitable dedication to hand not only the foetus but also all the attendant guilt back to the Lord. It is the same when people feel they have no alternative but to walk away from relationships they had once assumed would be “forever.”

Rather than staging one of those wildly euphoric “divorce parties” that are all the rage in some quarters, why not hand your original vows back to the Lord? This is surely as good a way as any to mark the end of one phase of your life and to re-commission the next.

Because symbolic ceremonies can be profoundly liberating, ask the Lord to show you whenever such a ceremony might be relevant. In the case of a dissolved marriage, for instance, it might be appropriate to remove your wedding ring and to declare before the Lord,

I have been faithful before You Lord, and ask You now to set me free from my wedding vows.

Or, if matters have been less straightforward:

Lord, I confess that I have not been faithful to my vows.
As I come to You in repentance,
do whatever it takes to cleanse the depths of my heart,
and to heal all who have been hurt by my unfaithfulness.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Breaking bread together is another means that God has ordained to remove our guilt and to affirm our determination to follow Him. In the words of the old prayer book:

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent . . .
and intend to live a new life . . .
and are heartily sorry for these misdoings . . .
draw near with faith.

Reflect and Pray

Lord, I come to You in need of closure about . . .

I repent where my actions or attitudes
have been part of the problem.

Forgive me, and cleanse me from the sense of guilt and shame that I am carrying.

From this moment on, help me to live in the light.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Elisabeth Harding