If you are having trouble reading this, click here

A Gentle Regathering: Practical Resources for Tending to Grief & Loss

By Sarah Bentley Allred on Jul 05, 2021 10:00 am
Black and white photo of man sitting in row of chairs wearing mask, with head in hands.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful in ways that many people have never before experienced. The extended length, level of uncertainty, and changing nature of the pandemic have led many to a place of exhaustion as we enter a season of re-opening (according to NPR, If Your Brain Feels Foggy And You’re Tired All The Time, You’re Not Alone). Church members and leaders alike are eager to be together in person. A lot of life has happened while we have been connecting mainly through FaceBook, email, and Zoom. And, some of it has been really hard. How can our communities of faith be places of healing where our grief is seen, acknowledged, and held in the presence of God?

Emotions Happen in the Body

As we begin to consider how our worship services, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and youth group gatherings can be sensitive to the individual and collective losses of the pandemic, it is important to acknowledge that emotions are a full body experience. Sadness is not simply a cognitive experience, it manifests as a watering of the eyes or a tightening of the chest or a desire to curl up. Likewise, joy might feel like a swelling of the chest or the desire to sing, dance, or jump. As we explore ways to be sensitive to the range of experiences each of us have lived through in the last year, song, movement, art, writing, storytelling, centering prayer, and other forms of embodiment can be part of the healing process.

Note: For more on the subject of how emotions and trauma are held in our bodies, I highly recommend The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk and My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem.

Practical Ideas for Grieving Together

1. Name The Losses

In a recent episode of the Dare to Lead podcast with Brené Brown (How We Return and Why It Matters, author Priya Parker said, “naming is the most powerful tool we have as facilitators.” Explicitly naming and acknowledging the loss and difficulty of the pandemic normalizes the grief and other emotions we are experiencing. It can help people feel safe, at ease, and seen. We can do this often and in a variety of ways from prayers to sermons, newsletters, individual conversations, and as we begin meetings or formation events.

For example, I might start a meeting by saying, “It is so very good to be with you in person and to see your faces. I am feeling so grateful to be fully vaccinated and so excited to start regathering. I’m also aware children and folks living with compromised immune systems still need to mask. And I’m feeling deep grief about many of the losses of the past year. I’d like to hold some space before we start the business portion of our gathering to just acknowledge the mixed emotions some of us my be experiencing. Let’s keep a moment of silence and if anyone feels called, please share with us how you are feeling about all of this today.”

2. Tell The Stories

Another way to invite folks to name the losses is through story sharing. Michelle Palmer used pandemic stories from The New York Times to spark story sharing with her youth group (read about this activity here). During prayers of the people at story church, the Rev. Miranda Hassett invites the congregation to create a prayer garden by adding rocks for the griefs or things heavy on their hearts, flowers for thanksgivings, and candles to lift a particular person up to God. Another idea is to create a large paper tree and have people write pandemic stories on the leaves that they attach to the limbs.

3. Pray with the Body

As we pray, we can invite people to connect with their bodies. This can be as simple as inviting people to place a hand on their heart as you offer a prayer. Here are a few additional ideas:

4. Invite Creativity

Art can be a very meaningful way for people of all ages to process their experiences and tell their stories. It is especially helpful for kinesthetic learners and pre-verbal children. Here are a few ideas:

5. Sing Your Grief & Hope

Singing connects us to our bodies, to our emotions, to God, and to one another. As we begin to sing together again (following the guidelines of your Bishop, congregational leaders, etc.), we can use music to help us reconnect and heal. Here are a few ideas.

An Important Reminder

It is important to remember that the pandemic has not impacted us all in the same ways. It has been a universally difficult experience AND being isolated is not the same as experiencing job loss, food insecurity, or domestic violence. All the losses matter, we need to mourn even the small ones. We also need to be on the look out for folks who are struggling with significant trauma, depression, anxiety, etc. and help connect them with mental health professionals.

Photo by christopher catbagan on Unsplash.

The post A Gentle Regathering: Practical Resources for Tending to Grief & Loss appeared first on Building Faith.

Read in browser »


Recent Articles:

What Does Welcome Look Like? Welcoming and Affirming Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Folks in our Churches
Grace + Peace: Back to School Blessing Tags & Stickers
“Post-Pandemic” Stewardship
Back to School Blessings & Prayers: A Handout
Story as a Path to Healing: An Activity for Youth
Words click for webinars and more, Building Faith Logo in blue, Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary logo, pink, red, blue, green, yellow stars confetti
Click the image for the Virginia Theological Seminary Eventbrite page for webinars, events, workshops, courses, and more. 
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Pin Pin
Resources for Disciples of All Ages

Click here  to unsubscribe | Manage your email preferences
You are receiving this email because you have subscribed to
Building Faith is a ministry of  Virginia Theological Seminary

Our mailing address is:
Virginia Theological Seminary 3737 Seminary Road Alexandria, VA 22304 USA