We Are Grieving

By Kathy McGowan

I have come to realize in the last few weeks that, in many ways, we as a nation are grieving. As liberal religious people, we are grieving. We are seeing many of our values and the ideals of our democracy challenged in ways we might never have imagined happening in our lifetime.

Grief manifests in many ways. It is different for every individual. Here are the most commonly seen stages of the grieving process:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Many of us were in denial just after the election in November. We have seen anger manifest in various forms. It is common for people to lash out. As to the stage of bargaining, many of us regret what we did not do or second guess what might have been. Once depression has set in, we can have an overwhelming sense of loss. For many of us, sleep loss is a real and ever-present handicap. The fifth stage of acceptance and an ability to move forward can seem elusive.

This is the grief process. And it is just that, a process. We can go in and out of these stages or skip some altogether. It is also easy to be triggered by an incident, a word or a song, and there is no predetermined time for when we will move into acceptance.

If we consider that anyone we run into can be at any stage in this process, it is clear that we must be gentle with each other. Even WebMD says: “Everyone grieves differently. But if you understand your emotions, take care of yourself, and seek support, you can heal.”

Our job as Unitarian Universalists remains the same; bring our values of hope, love, courage, justice and joy into the world. For some people they have been called to justice in new ways and have found courage that they did not know they had. For some of us, it is time to embrace other values. Hope, love and joy must not be lost in our time of struggle.

Love - We always must aspire to begin in love. Love also includes compassion for oneself. Be good to yourself. Sleep, eat well, exercise, forgive yourself when you find yourself coming up short. Ask for help when you need it.

Joy - I did not go to the woman’s march and I do not feel guilty. My resistance is taking another form right now. I try to help people notice the beauty around them and to bring joy and laughter to every meeting. Don’t forget to spend time on things that bring you joy.

Hope - Remember we are not alone. Don’t isolate yourself. Make time for your friends and family members who are important to you. It may be time to come to come together in new ways. Give help to those who ask for it.

I leave you with the words of Wayne B Arnason:

“Take courage friends. The way is often hard, the path is never clear, and the stakes are very high.

Take courage. For deep down, there is another truth: you are not alone.”

About the Author

Kathy McGowan

Kathy McGowan has been on the Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association since 2013. In that time her areas of focus have been in systems thinking, theology, conflict, intercultural sensitivity, and staff supervision. She is one of the primary...

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