When we grieve, the holidays can seem like a kind of kaleidoscopic emotional blur. Our spirit spins from the chaotic contradiction of sorrow and seasonal joy, sadness and holiday cheer, loneliness and festive gatherings.

Our Saints in Circulation

Because our experience of grief is both intimate and personal, often we memorialize our loved ones more privately than publicly. When we invite others into the sacred space of our grief, we share our story of love and loss with those in need of community and spiritual encouragement. As we open our heart to close family members, acquaintances, or even relative strangers, we put our saints in circulation.

The Other Side of Grief

Reconciling our experience of loss and sorrow with the grace of faith leads us slowly but surely to the other side of grief. There we find there the inevitable outcome of our experience of grief—joy.

Troubled Grief

There is a kind of grief deeply rooted in our personal tangle of regret, guilt, and unresolved emotions that can only be described as troubled. Troubled grief feels unshakeable, as though an impenetrable semi-gloom has settled over our life. Troubled grief is a malaise of mind and spirit that for a while can dictate our every mood and daily disposition.

Scrappy Grief

Many struggle with the kind of grief that is love turned inside out. Scrappy grief feeds on the fragmented, disconnected, emotional odds and ends of incomplete relationships and unfinished love. Sometimes we feel this way when our affections have been misused or extinguished by duty, responsibility, overbearing demands, or disappointed expectations.

Speed Grieving

Grief forces us to sort through the emotions that overwhelm us after the death of one we love while at the same time we work to reconcile ourselves to permanent loss. There is nothing speedy about this daunting challenge. But if we take the time—or make the time—to experience our grief, to wrestle it down and understand it, we get through grief even as we go through grief. This is the reward of our labors for doing the work of grief.

This Side of Grief

Grief has the power to create divides in our life, occasionally even deep chasms. Sometimes we feel that it’s “us” and “them”—those who understand our grief, and those who will never know what grief feels like until they themselves have a personal experience of loss and sorrow. Grief is an equal-opportunity experience—at some time we will all know the pain and sadness of grief when one we love dies.

Unison Grief

A commonwealth is a federation of states or any group of persons united by some common interest. In the face of senseless violence, those who are helpless onlookers are most certainly part of a commonwealth. As we join hands and hearts across continents and the continuum of life, we grieve in unison for each individual who is lost to us in death and for every person who survives and grieves.


 Comfort is a repetitive experience of grief—there’s no one-time, once and for all comfort that can fix our grief and send us on our way in life. When we grieve, over time what we—discern is that God is persistent in comforting us—again and again and again. The psalmist assures us, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” (Psalm 71:20-21 NIV).


One of the lessons grief teaches us is that it is impossible to imagine the death of a loved one or be comforted before the actual experience of death. Although Jesus tried to comfort his disciples in advance of his death with the promise of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of eternal life, his friends did not really understand what he meant. How could they? Jesus was still alive and well, entirely present to them in body and in spirit. And although Jesus knew he would die, the time frame for his disciples was very short—Jesus went from triumph to tragedy in less than a week. When he died, they were in complete shock. They were at once overwhelmed by the confusion and disbelief of grief, the same grief we experience when the death of one we love is sudden and unexpected.

The Passion of Grief

During this week when much of the world observes the sacred days of Passover, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, the underlying theology of each holy day centers on the power of death, the intensity of grief, and the joy of redemption.

Grief and Lent

The premise of Lent is that it is a time of spiritual introspection and self-examination that can lead us toward a renewed, stronger faith and a closer relationship with God. The observance of Lent is a little like the soulful contemplation most of us experience at some time in our grief.
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