Grief and Gratitude

Katie Myers, Lay Leader

“This is really hard, but it’s nothing compared to what others are dealing with.”

“I feel bad for feeling grateful for what this time has given me because so many are suffering.”

Over the past weeks, I’ve heard these sentiments many times. I’ve felt them myself. What about you? We struggle with how to hold both lament and thanksgiving—grief and gratitude.

As someone who struggles with a tendency to dwell on the negative, I can tell you that gratitude is a life-giving discipline. I often simply forget the good things until I practice consciously remembering them, recording them, celebrating them. On the other hand, grief is sacred too. Whether a loss is small or large, it is still a loss. It’s an uncomfortable state to be in—grieving—and we often seek relief from it by trying to minimize our experiences or even by focusing on gratitude as a way of denying our grief.

We struggle with holding both grief and gratitude because the world often tells us there is only space for grief or gratitude. Yet I think one of the lessons of our life together in Christ in this time—for me, and perhaps also for you—is that grief and gratitude accompany one another. We grieve because of love; we give thanks because of love.

Sadness and sorrow and suffering have been around us always, yet this time has invited us to know and see and experience the realities of these things in a visceral way. We are freshly, keenly aware of the aches and wounds of the world. And, as things have been stripped away, we have also found ourselves newly grateful for all that we do have and for what we have rediscovered is truly essential to us.

The habits and rituals learned together in our gathered life teach us how to hold space for both grief and gratitude by offering all things to God. We see this pattern again and again in the Psalms where grief and anguish at the full range of life’s injustices and injuries find expression yet always with a turn to thanksgiving and gratitude for God’s goodness. We practice this habit in our Wednesday night prayer gathering (via Zoom) where our pattern is always to share our lament and our thanksgiving. This is an act of faith that believes that God can hold both our grief and our gratitude, that God shares in our sorrow and in our joy.

We feel the loss of our gathered Laurel Heights community. We miss each other’s faces, smiles, hugs, conversations, jokes, and just physical presence. We miss our shared life together of meals, songs, service, and worship. We grieve that we cannot come close to one another when people are sick or lonely or hurting. We are heartbroken that we cannot mourn the loss of beloved members of our community together, observing the rituals and customs that have always helped us. There are many more griefs and burdens that we carry in our hearts right now. As you’re reading these words, consider taking just a moment to reflect on and experience those . . .

We have also found treasure and experienced healing and nurturing and even joyous moments together. We have found our way to one another in bonds of community that are harder to shake than perhaps even we knew. We have gathered in one another’s homes through telephone and letter and Zoom and Facebook and have discovered new and deep ways of connecting with each other. We have shared prayers, expressions of love left on doorsteps, food with vulnerable neighbors, and shouts of gladness pealed out by the bells. We have been reassured over and over that in all things God is with us, we are not alone. Just as we carry griefs in our hearts, we also have our joys, the small pleasures, the moments of delight, the richness of provision to draw from. Take another moment to name and delight in these good gifts . . .

This is the pattern of our life together—rejoicing and sorrowing, grieving and giving thanks, trusting that in all things we are together and that God is with us in all things.