Snapshots of Grief

Photo via Flickr user D.Reichardt
Photo via Flickr user D.Reichardt

A week ago, the youth team was informed that a tenth grader in our church community took his own life. We immediately started getting calls and texts from high schoolers and parents alike saying, “We have to do something. What are we going to do?” We decided to gather as a community a few days before the funeral.

We moved quickly and with purpose, each using his or her own skill set, being kind to each other, touching shoulders, offering hugs. Some sobbed and moaned with those who were weeping, walking around for days with puffy, glazed over eyes and their hearts exposed. I wrote prayers and searched for appropriate music and readings. Others went shopping. I walked into my office to find two grocery bags full of Kleenex packets for the pews. The pastor handed me his sermon and I cried as I read the end, the good news, the part about how darkness tells lies about us being alone, but God does love us and we love each other and the light will overcome the darkness and life will win. “This is good,” I sniffed. “Really good.”

A mother and daughter stayed up late baking pans and pans of dessert. “This is just what you do,” the mother told her daughter. “When there is nothing else to do, you feed people.” A coworker came into our work space a few hours before the gathering and asked us, “Can I bring you all some dinner?” It was the first moment I realized how hungry I was, and my yes was heartfelt, from my gut. How do people just know what to do? These people who just do exactly what needs to be done without needing to be asked or thanked, they amaze me. A mental health specialist joined us, reminding, “Young people learn how to grieve by watching their elders.”

And then came the stream of young people, one after another. Those in shock held up those who were crying. They showed each other pictures, told stories. “It is good to see you,” I said over and over and meant it. “Thank you for coming.” We lit candles. We prayed. We talked about grief and letting our bodies feel whatever we are feeling.

As I walked up to read the prayers of the people, I didn’t wipe my tears away. My voice shook, my nose ran, my heart stayed in my throat. Some things will never make sense. Like a litany, I repeated, “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.” Mercy. Lord. Please. Send us your mercy.

Published by Ellie Roscher

Ellie Roscher is the author of How Coffee Saved My Life, and Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace. She holds a master’s degree in Theology/Urban Ministry from Luther Seminary and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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