I wasn’t prepared when my father died- out of the blue, in the middle of a work day, at the age of 54. I was washing the dishes when my sister called to tell me that he had had a heart attack at work. In the days that followed, I found my grief needed to be expressed. I needed to cry out in sorrow, and lean on the love of family and friends. I also needed to find my own way. Grief for me meant withdrawing from well-intentioned people who tried to attach meaning to this experience. Religious answers felt stifling, and following my father’s death I seemed to wander in a kind of spiritual desert…. Months later, I found my way for the first time into a Unitarian Universalist church. There I found I could still wander, but with a compass and friends for the journey.
No one grieves or experiences death in quite the same way. I have sat with many grieving families. Some are stoic, others lament. Some people need to be surrounded by community; others desire privacy. Some people grieve openly for years; others hold their grief inside and barely speak a word. Some hold tight to their religious beliefs and practices for strength and comfort; others need to create their own meaning from loss. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
As we move into this month of wondering about Death, let us remember that each one of us holds stories and experiences, as well as personal meanings of great importance. Let us hold all of these with respect and love as we wander together on this journey.