Finding God in Grief

Lynne Smith, OSB Living in Community 16 Comments

Walking outside has long been a regular part of my life. Since coming to the monastery, walking the grounds has become an important part of my prayer life. Moving my body also helps me process my feelings.

A couple of weeks ago I went out for a walk with a sense of grief that I hadn’t been able to access fully. Walking slowly helps me notice what’s around me and what thoughts are arising. I walked through the pine woods, came out into the oaks and slowed down to a stop. I stood in place for a few minutes, letting whatever was going on inside catch up with me. Suddenly, I burst into tears. I was grieving many things: the health of the earth, the health of those affected by COVID – 19 and the health care workers trying to care for them. I was grieving the sudden changes that have occurred for us at the monastery as for everyone else in churches and businesses and at home. Some of my tears were for past losses. Some were for feared future losses. Amid the tears I was also aware of God’s great love holding me and all creation. More and more, this love brings tears of thanksgiving even in the midst of loss and confusion. No matter what happens, God’s love enfolds us and rushes in whenever we turn to it open-heartedly. This love is what holds the world together and is present in all that happens even death and disaster. This is what I saw at that moment in the woods.

Later that evening when I returned home and had time to reflect on my walk, I wrote a poem to express something of what I had experienced. This is what I wrote.

The bereft one walks in the woods.
The trees are silent witnesses to her tears.
They see her and stand firm.

Over the years, branches die;
new life sprouts.
They stand firm.
When there is more death than life
still they stand,
sap running,
until it can no more.

Then their harvest of carbon
falls
and lays on the ground
for life to use its energy,
to grow tiny forests
of moss.

Bereft one,
see how life can come
from standing firm
and falling,
yielding to the soft mosses
of the heart.
Come stand with us.
Let your tears water our feet.

Comments 16

  1. This is beautiful. I teared up at the end. Thank you for daring to feel your feelings. Much of the time I turn away from mine. Do you really find that God’s love rushes in every time we turn to it open-heartedly? Maybe I’m not always open-hearted enough. Might be related to turning away from my feelings… hmm… Thank you for helping me think and feel.

  2. PS I too am grieving the health of the earth and grieving/fearing for its and our future (abject terror when I really let in everything I’ve read). On a positive note, I can picture right where you were standing. I love those pine woods… I’ve always felt safer and saner among pines… as if the pines know something that helps. Your poem captures some of the something that they know.

    1. Hi Leora,

      I find God present when I can still myself enough to get into the present and actually experience what I’m feeling at the moment. I often turn away from my feelings or mask them by keeping busy. When I finally get connected to myself as I am, I do always find God there. But I don’t easily or often get that connected to myself. I am practicing turning toward myself with compassion. When I don’t feel God’s presence, I practice remembering that God is present whether or not I feel it. It’s all an on-going practice.

      Lynne

    2. I’ve learned that pines give off a chemical that feels calming to humans. I don’t remember the name of it now. It’s in the scent we smell in the pines.

    3. Sister Lynne,
      Is is so kind of you to share these thoughts and inner feelings with us. Lately I have seen you as so in control, working to make everything efficient, whether it be leading the search committee for the CEO, managing Sunday morning coffee hour, presiding at Liturgies. This is a more vulnerable side of you that not everyone would be able to share and express. Thank you so much for all you are doing. I appreciate you and all the Sisters and staff working each day. You are in my thoughts and prayers!
      Sending hugs!!
      Joyce

  3. Thank you for words and feelings that connect even when sound transmissions and reassurances of connection fail. Together in grief and aloneness. Carolyn

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      Grief is one of the feelings that so many of us share at this time. Our technician found where the problem is with the live streaming. He has to get the company that made some of our equipment and our streaming service to work to resolve it. Once again, I hope it will be resolved this week. It seems there are so many ways technology can have problems. You are in our prayers. I hope we’ll connect virtually soon.

      Lynne

  4. Lynn,

    Your words are inspiring. I struggle at times to get quiet enough to truly feel Gods arms wrapped around my sorrows. I try to work on trusting and letting go of things that are not mine to hold onto.

    1. Kathy,

      It is an on-going process that I struggle with too. The pandemic provides lots of opportunities for practice.

  5. Thank you Sister Lynne,
    I find your vulnerability & openness to the tears/grief so resonates with me. COVID has wreaked havoc in so many way as you well describe. I am finding the mid day prayers prompt my tears & closeness to God as I reflect on my ministry as a chaplain right now. I so appreciate these prayers being shared. Peace to all of you!!

    1. Sally,

      I’m so glad you can participate in the midday prayers. May God continue to hold you close in your ministry to patients and families.

      Peace,
      Lynne

  6. Thank you for that poem. You found the words to express something profound and moving and I am grateful for your sharing of it with us. It was a gift.

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