Talk given by Margaret Carter at St Martin's Annual Memorial Service on Sunday 3rd November 2013
Dear God, help us to hear what you have to say to us today. Amen
Everyone has a story that needs to be told and heard by others, no matter how many times it is said. These stories are from people at St Martins, both men and women.
1. My mother's death was complete shock. I had just turned 22 and I felt she had been taken away from me far too early. I was filled with a heavy heart, a deep sadness and completely engulfed by a feeling of unfairness. Our relationship ended there and I feel l have been denied the opportunity of seeing her grow old. Even after almost 40 yrs l still feel a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, especially on Mothering Sunday and other Anniversaries.
2. After 27 yrs of marriage and abuse our marriage ended. I felt a deep sadness and guilt about why my marriage should end. The confident person l once was had become a depressed shadow of my former self. The sparkle in my life died along with the relationship...friends who were in our lives before also disappeared. But as a Christian l felt God's hand on my life. And although the grief is on going time heals and l can now enjoy new experiences, joy and light.
3. My dad died suddenly nearly 25yrs ago. I felt l had to be strong for everyone else and so never really grieved. Over the years l have often seen my father in my dreams and woken up feeling that loss all over again. I began to see those dreams as an opportunity of meeting my father again and l am thankful.
4. My mother died unexpectedly when l was 14 and her death had a profound effect on me. My father rarely talked about her or her death and l grew up 'closed', in a way to protect myself from further feelings of abandonment and loss. Over the years my twin sister, my brother my father and my older sister, died and grief has become in a way 'normal' to me.
5. I died inside too and l am not yet back to life. Life will never be the same again, sometimes l smile but it’s only on the surface.
6. My husband died. People ask, How are you? You are doing well. But no-one knows the emptiness, the ache, it’s as if a limb has been removed, it is so, so very painful.
7. I was my wife’s carer for many years and couldn’t believe it and was in shock when she died. Then l felt the guilt, had l done enough? That was followed by complete emptiness because l wasn’t needed anymore.
8. When my dad died I felt complete shock and despair, followed by anger with God. 40yrs later my mum died and my feelings were ones of relief that she would not suffer anymore.
These are people’s real stories from St Martins....stories of grief and bereavement. Some things in these stories will be familiar to us, some things not. Our stories will be different we have our own personal stories to tell. They are all stories of love because only the unloved and the unloving escape the pain of grief. The fact that we are here is testament to the fact that we have loved unconditionally.
A little about my story:
My mum died in the year 2000. She was a lovely warm person, with a wonderful sense of humour. We shared that same sense of humour and would often start to laugh uncontrollably about something…we didn’t need to explain.
But grief is one of the strangest emotions we can feel, taking us so much by surprise. I always steel myself for occasions like birthdays and Christmas, but at other times, like when l hear a song on the radio she used to sing or l catch sight of her cardigan l'd kept, which still smelt of her, would bring me to tears. I came through those intense emotions of denial, isolation, anger, acceptance, bargaining and depression and 13 years on l can look back with thanks for the life she had and that God made her the person she was. Those intense emotions will all be there in our grief but not necessarily in the same order.
The 1 Corinthians 13 reading is the one l chose for my mother's funeral and l have chosen it for today because it’s about love. And bereavement is about nothing, if it's not about love. ......the cost of love. Losing that one special person, who not only loved us unconditionally but someone we had the privilege to share our life with.
We may experience all kinds of difficult emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness we're experiencing will never go away. These are normal reactions to a significant loss. At our time of loss we are often surrounded by friends and family who want to help us. But sometimes they are unhelpful, especially when they say things like:
The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
The Fact is: Trying to ignore our pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face the grief and actively try to deal with it.
SUCH AS: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
In Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean we are weak. You don’t need to “protect” our family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing our true feelings can help them and us.
SUCH AS: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
In Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.
And finally: Grief should last about a year and you'll be over it.
In Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person.
These comments are often made because people just don't know what to say.
Grief is a natural response to loss of someone we loved. It’s the emotional suffering we feel when something or someone we love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. We may associate grief with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief—but any loss can cause grief, including: divorce, loss of a job, unwanted retirement, house fire, a mastectomy, the removal of a limb or loss of something precious.
In our vulnerability and helplessness we can try to bargain with God; to regain control and postpone the inevitable
• If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
• If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
• If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…
• If only l hadn't fallen asleep while smoking
• If only l had bolted the door. If only....if only....
Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience.
Losing someone or something we love or care deeply about changes our world forever. It will never be the same again. Sometimes we look at the world and not even know what season it is. Bereavement affects your faith, it can make it stronger, or weaker, or it can stay the same. The dynamics in that family or group of friends are changed forever. We need to grieve while trying somehow to work out our new journey in life.
The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold. Grief is a natural and important process in remembering and feeling the connection to those who have died. The intensity of the grief can show us just how deeply we can feel for ourselves and for others. It shows us the deep love we have in our hearts.
But there is hope...that unconditional love we mentioned earlier, is ours, freely given by God . Just as the cost of loving that special person in our lives is grief....the cost of Jesus loving us unconditionally was his death.
Each day will bring us joy, sorrow and challenges which can overwhelm us. But God is waiting for us to reach out to Him, to lean on Him in our pain, to allow Him to share in our sorrow, love us through it and to develop that lasting, meaningful relationship with Him. AMEN