When Grief is So Heavy:

The past few days at Pittman Park have been filled with profound loss, one upon another. We are in mourning and are filled with grief as we think about our members who now boldly sit before the throne of God. We remember Mrs. Betty Merck, Mr. Ed Crites, and Mr. Rick Williams.

While we each grieve in our own ways, may we continue to stand beside one another, share our memories, and love others with all the love they have shared with us.

During this time, it helps to ask what happens when we grieve. Many people have heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance. Another stage was added meaning. These aren’t stages – they don’t happen in sequence, and we might not experience each one. Perhaps think of these as aspects of grief that we experience, reexperience, and move back and forth between as we cope with grief and loss. Usually, it’s a bit of a roller coaster of sudden ups/downs as we move between these aspects of grief.

Denial of our feelings or denying the reality of what is happening. Denial helps us escape from grief. When we first hear of a death, we often say ‘No’ or ‘It can’t be’ as a first response.

Anger activates us, helps us get things done, and gives us a sense of control. It also helps us escape by externalizing our grief elsewhere. We blame people and get mad. With death, we might get mad at the cost, hospital rules, or availability of others.

Bargaining is when we stop denying but still try to feel a sense of control. It helps us reduce the pain of grief while beginning to accept something.

Despair in grief is feeling hopeless, depressed, lost, and intensely sad. The reality of loss sets in, and the suffering is immense. The depth of suffering can feel unbearable and all-consuming. Thoughts become all-or-nothing and exaggerated. With death, despair can be ‘I will never feel okay again’ or ‘I can never, ever get over this.’

Paradoxically, it’s only when we accept our deep feelings of loss that we begin to heal. We surrender to what has happened, stop denying and fighting, accept the sadness, and cope as best we can.

Meaning: In this aspect of grief, we find peace and hope. We honor what has been lost, who has been lost. Our memories bring feelings of warmth and gratefulness rather than only sadness. With death, making a special donation, taking a memorable trip that was dreamed of together, or writing a story can bring meaning. Meaning also comes in small ways, such as feeling peace in thinking that parents are now together or noticing coincidences that bring comfort.

While I know each of us is in a different stage of grief, I pray we all can move to the stage of accepting God’s peace and timing. I genuinely believe Rick, Ed, and Betty left a mark on Pittman Park that will continue to be felt for years. We will miss seeing Rick and Sue on the back row in the Sanctuary as as they held down their “assigned seats.” Rick blessed me regularly with jokes to lighten the day. Ed was living out the dream disciple Jonathan has been preaching on recently. I have seen Ed as a faithful encourager, a humble servant, a compassionate leader, and an everyday visionary. Lastly, Ms. Betty was always willing to share a story. One story she reminded me of is the tree planted at Pittman Park in memory of her husband Lamar. She and Addie regularly met to water the Water Oak as it was taking root. I’ll never look at that tree without thinking of Betty and Lamar.

We’re all living with many layers of grief and loss right now, some recognized, some unconscious, and some yet to come. We might use words like ‘stress’ when what we feel is grief. This is a hard season, but it will end. Know who you are and remember whose hands you are in. Our faith gives us comfort and our hope does not disappoint us. Remember that sadness and anger are normal feelings – don’t feel guilty and think you aren’t trusting God enough. As Christians, we can feel grief and peace at the same time.

Standing with you in grief,

If you want to make a Memorial Donation to Pittman Park and honor the lives of Ed Crites, Betty Merck, or Rick Williams, you can do so online at https://pittmanpark.org/give/ or mark your check as memorials.