by Brian Lamb

A Lenten Journey of Care

After failing to reach my mom, my brother decided to call me.

He only had the energy to tell one of us and since I was a former pastor and chaplain, he knew I could handle it. It was through this phone call that I learned my nephew died in a single-car accident early in the evening before. He was ejected through the sunroof and pronounced dead at the scene. I immediately stepped into “pastoral mode,” calling my parents and siblings and suppressing any emotion.

I would continue that pastoral role, offering to eulogize my nephew at his funeral. I chose to preach from Job. I took an exegesis on Job during seminary and appreciated the space Job gave us to be mad. We would explore several levels of grief as it pertains to Job. I recall writing a sermon on Job where I wove in poetry from my grandmother’s diary. These poems and letters spanned decades and were written about my grandfather following his death. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. My grandmother through her poetry. I chose to step into pastor mode. Job cursed the day he was born.

My actual grief would stay bottled up for the next several months.

Then, early one morning, my husband received a phone call from his ex-wife. Their son was in an automobile accident. He was ejected from the vehicle and was in the trauma center at VCU. All the unresolved grief of my nephew resurfaced. My husband got ready and immediately went to Richmond. When he returned that evening he shared that his son had thought he was going to die that night.

Immediately I saw the image of my nephew.

I had hoped for months that he didn’t suffer the hours his body lay in a field. This time was different. This time I leaned into my grief. I cried for what felt like three straight days. Rather than masking grief with pastoral tendencies. I processed the grief along with my husband.

Processing grief is a vital component of good mental health and so often pastors neglect their mental health for their pastoral responsibilities. I know I have.

We like to go straight from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

We cannot forget about Saturday.

Humans need time to process their grief and I cannot help but think that the in-between time of Saturday is symbolic of the time we need to spend processing our grief. A good therapist helps too.

Prayer For Reflection:

God, shine your eternal light onto the souls of the grieving and let them feel your love. Guide them to find new ways to cope with their loss that will renew their soul and fill their heart with your eternal love.

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