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Part 1: The Spiritual Aspect of Grief

Lev was buried on Maundy Thursday, seven years ago. It seems like yesterday…and a lifetime ago. The approach of Easter is much more a reminder to me of his death/my loss than the calendar date, April 7. While I have written often about those sinkholes called holidays, Easter is not a sinkhole for me, for the resurrection story is the basis of my comfort and hope.

When I set out two years ago to write a primer for new widows, RECLAIMING JOY, I envisioned a daily meditation workbook based on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Instead, what has emerged is a memoir of moving from grief to recovery and joy.

My first step was to write experientially, to find my voice. I did not want to be influenced by the voices of others who grieved or by grief professionals and scholars. After three drafts, I finally delved into the literature.

I was struck by the lack of any reference to the spiritual aspect of grief in most contemporary books, whether memoirs or self-help books by professionals. At most, there was a passing reference to religious rites of burial and mourning and seeking counsel from priest, minister or rabbi. Occasionally I encountered the stark sentence, I do not believe…

In my search for a literary agent, I quickly learned that any reference to God classifies a book as “religious,” a genre that many agents and publishers won’t touch. I don’t consider my book any more spiritual than David Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character. Paul’s practical advice to the Philippians is applicable to all moral, ethical people, certainly to all with traditional, western, Judeo-Christian values and worldview.

I see no way to leave out the spiritual aspect of grief, any more than I can leave out psychological, physical, social and financial aspects. These are the issues every widowed person wrestles with after loss. Those who do not believe will find their comfort in a different place than I find mine, just as those who face different physical or financial challenges will find different solutions. But one way or another, they all impact and change us. I wrote about the physical aspect here; and I will be writing about the psychological, social and financial aspects in the weeks ahead.

Easter 2009

Easter hope—or at least its exhilarating joy—was hard to celebrate in the face of Lev’s death and all that followed. I was grateful on that Easter Sunday to worship with my son and his family at the Church at Horseshoe Bay, high up on the hillside overlooking Lake LBJ in the Texas Hill Country. I was glad to be among strangers, people who did not know I was grieving, in a place where Lev and I had worshiped on other Easters.

Sunday afternoon the family headed back to Dallas for work and school, but I decided to spend the night there on the lake by myself before driving home to face an empty house. I was totally at peace that evening as I sat on the shore, wrapped in a blanket, watching the sun slowly sink below the hills on the opposite shore.

The four-hour drive back to Corpus Christi on Monday morning bought me time to prepare mentally for what awaited me at home. During a period when getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other was a struggle, I found comfort in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31 NASB



How will you observe Easter this year?

I have avoided Easter at home since Lev died, preferring Horseshoe Bay. This year, though, I will attend early worship alone (never easy) at the church where we worshiped together for more than 40 years; and then I will serve Easter dinner to my daughter and family, her in-laws and good friends who will be alone on Easter for the first time in many years. I am leaving no time for a pity party.


Previous blogs on related subjects:

What Do You Say When There Are No Words? refers to Charles Corr and the four dimensions of dying, which is the basis of my writing on the five aspects of grief. Corr identified the tasks faced by the dying. The tasks faced by survivors are someone different, and I added the financial aspect to his list.

The Myth of Christianity examines the false hope that Christians will live happily ever after and considers the actual promises of Jesus, “I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:8)…. Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

The Very Public Face of Mourning considers the false beliefs that we have to “be strong” and that grieving is somehow evidence of a lack of faith.