As a young child growing up in a community full of life with children playing together on every street, I experienced the deep pain associated with grief one summer day when my closest friend drowned canoeing in Big Ridge Park. PJ and I were 7 years old when we first became friends—a friendship that was unbreakable until his drowning at age 13. We loved to be on the same team together playing basketball, football or whatever the sport might be. Most of the time you could find us shooting marbles in the front yard of one of our houses. His death was a grief that I had never experienced. Every night for what seemed like eternity, I cried when I thought about my friend.
Each of us will experience grief over the course of our lives. It may be from the loss of loved ones. It may be from the loss of our health. It may be from the loss of a job, our home, our youth or a dream for our life. Whatever our particular experience of grief, it needs to be honored rather than denying or striving to overcome it. How we do that is unique to each person, although the terrain we travel may be similar.
Anthropologist Angeles Arrien offers us a process for working with our grief experiences, which she calls honorable closure. Honorable closure is based on a ritual to mark endings, to acknowledge the impact of our experiences and to gather wisdom from them. It consists of four questions:
- What am I grateful for from having the experience?
- How was I positively impacted by the experience?
- How was I stretched or challenged by the experience?
- Is there anything I need to say or do to feel complete?
As I consider these four question to bring honorable closure to my grief experiences, I conclude that I am grateful for the experiences because they heighten my keen awareness that grief can have honorable closure and that life is not absent of grief experiences. Therefore, how we handle our griefs, will ultimately fashion our desires to love and care again.
Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!
By Chaplain Ghosten