This past week, the senior staff of Church of Our Saviour gathered for a day of planning and development. It was particularly joyous and exciting because the group had not been able to gather in that way since before the pandemic. We spent much of the discussion time reflecting upon the ubiquitous changes throughout our collective and individual lives over the past two plus years.
Unfortunately (and fortunately), change is not optional nor reversible for any of us. Each day our lives evolve in ways that are predictable as well as not so predictable. We are born, we grow, we age, and we die. The people we love who are along for the ride with us experience the same. Despite our very best efforts, our lives are never actually static during that process. To experience change is, in a way, to be human or perhaps to be alive.
Change represents loss, and loss must be grieved. In the Episcopal burial liturgy, there is a prayer that reads “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.” A closer translation to Scripture would say, “There is prepared for us an eternal mansion in the heavens.” This beautiful sentence reframes the experience of grief into new life, or resurrection. As Christians, we preach resurrection to remind us that death (we could also say the disruption of change) does not win, life does and God does.
If two people undergo the same change at the same time, they will differ in their responses to the change. Both the intensity of the loss felt as well as the time it will take to process that change will differ between the two individuals. More than that, a change will be felt differently among individuals, depending what the change is. Whereas one change in our lives might not affect us, another change might take years or decades to recover from. As such, we cannot and should not judge or normalize how much an individual is affected by a change. During the first stages of change (or grief), we are frozen, scared, and even resentful. During later stages of change, individuals are able to experience a change with creativity and even joy.
This is where grace, community, and self-care come into play. With so many changes in all of our lives all at once, we need to give one another grace. We need community to support one another as we adapt to change, and we need to take care of ourselves as we adapt to change.
How might you find support for your grief? How are you adapting to our changing world?