You may recall Nancy Petty preaching on May 19th the sermon “Nonconsensual Resurrection”. A beautifully written response was shared with us shortly after and permission has been granted to share it with you. In its entirety:
Last week I had the opportunity to spend an hour in worship at Pullen Baptist. My friend Nancy Petty is the minister of the church — and a minister to many outside of the church. When Jamie died, Nancy was one of the folks who helped me hold it together when everything was falling apart. Visiting Pullen last week ended up being a particularly important time to go to church as Nancy ended up speaking on grief, and death, and dying.
I was struck by Nancy’s call to give grief the space I’ve tried to argue for every time I speak or write on grief. She asked the congregation to give those grieving a hand — to give their grief, and our own grief, a hand. She called on us to honor and respect grief. She asked us to create a safe space for us as a community to grieve, to wrestle with death, and, yes, even to die.
One phrase has stuck with me since last Sunday: “In time, belief replaced grief.”
The resurrection of many in the Bible, non-consensual resurrection in some cases as she pointed out, may well have laid the groundwork for this semi-theological underpinning that led to belief replacing grief. Belief that “your loved one is in a better place”… “God has a plan”… “They are in the celestial party in the sky”. None of these phrases, handy though they may be when you don’t know what to say, actually speak to grief. In my view, these phrases are trite. They do not create space for our grief — instead, they create misplaced expectations around grief. Those expectations are something I’ve wrestled with for six years as so many found the simple act of continuing to grieve to be insulting to the societal view that I should be fine.
Nancy rightly pointed out that we don’t give grief days. We can’t call out of work due to our grieving. Why is that? Have you checked your bereavement policy lately? Many companies might give you a week if the person who died is close to you biologically, a day or two if they are a distant cousin, and no time at all if you loved the person who died deeply without them being part of your family tree. Why is that? Is it due to our inability to wrestle with grief, and death, and dying? Does seeing someone grieve remind us of our own losses or the losses to come? Maybe so.
At the end of the service, we sang (I mostly mumbled, to be clear) a hymn that closed with the following lines: “I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you; I will share your joy and sorrow, till we’ve seen this journey through.”
I hope we can all remember those words and work to create spaces to grieve and to laugh. Space to love those you have lost and those who remain, move forward without moving on, and to grieve without expectation or schedule. Space to be fully human and to experience the full range of human emotion. Space to remember and to laugh. Space to fall apart and to put the pieces back together. Forever and ever. Amen.