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Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 28 Dec 2017, 09:28
by AmyJ
I am making a new thread based on what Roy said in a pre-existing thread.
Roy wrote:
28 Dec 2017, 08:28
Anyway, Suffice it to say that our church does not often do a great job to responding to various forms of grief. Often times church members seem more concerned with projecting and protecting the narrative of eternal families.
Yep. It helps me to think of church people as stuck in the "denial", "bargaining", or "anger" steps of the bereavement process when encountering areas where mourning is a requirement. While we normally associate "mourning with those that mourn" as specifically related to those that are encountering death - I think the processes associated with grieving are a lot more universal. The only consistent constant I have seen with mourning is when a reaction is produced at a time that an expectation did not match reality. We go through "mourning" when we don't get accepted by the school we really wanted to go to, when the super-cute guy [or girl] we were dating turns out to be a jerk not worthy of our time, when we experience something with our children that we did not see coming and had no chance to prepare for.

So something that I have learned about people is that it is my part to "mourn" with them - to meet them where they are in the process and hopefully lead/distract/plant seeds/show compassion/love them/introduce them to a better place in the mourning process. The final step of acceptance is always the place for that individual - but I can be there to listen to them vent their anger, to gently provide an alternative perspective that pushes them past denial (or not judge them for being in denial even if I can see that is what they are doing), hug them in their depression (and provide pragmatic tugs to pull them into a better place), encourage them to use the bargaining step as leverage for getting to a place of more effective thinking by setting up/replacing protocols of behavior and thinking. I can be empathetic and supportive when a person is in shock.

Maybe someday I will have the courage when teaching Mosiah 18 to bring these stages of grief into the discussion.

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 28 Dec 2017, 13:22
by Mr. Sneelock
AmyJ wrote:
28 Dec 2017, 09:28
Maybe someday I will have the courage when teaching Mosiah 18 to bring these stages of grief into the discussion.
You just have to let us know so we can come listen! :smile:

I home teach a family right now that is losing the father to cancer. In some ways I can see what you guys mean; it's like we're not allowed to mourn because that would show a lack of faith in eternal families. I'm just trying to be there to help in practical ways and share my general love for them as a family.

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 28 Dec 2017, 13:51
by Heber13
Mr. Sneelock wrote:
28 Dec 2017, 13:22
I'm just trying to be there to help in practical ways and share my general love for them as a family.
Thanks for sharing your example of true home teaching. That motivates me.

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 28 Dec 2017, 14:20
by Curt Sunshine
Lots of Mormons do a wonderful job grieving and helping others mourn; lots do not. Lots of Mormons are good at that when it involves death; lots are not. Far fewer are good at other, less "tangible" types of grief (like blows to faith), although some are great in that area, as well.

Most active members are comforted by our theology when it comes to death.

The central issue, in my mind, is when association is limited to Sundays and Wednesday nights - to official church functions, like happens in areas outside of the Mormon corridor areas (and small, Mormon-dominated towns where extended families abound). It is hard to mourn with people you don't see outside of church meetings, especially when you assume family is there to mourn collectively.

If you are interested, I wrote the following on my personal blog just over ten years ago:

"The Wonder of Warts" http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007 ... warts.html

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 28 Dec 2017, 20:28
by DancingCarrot
I’ve occasionally seen a blog post circulated through my LDS friends through the years, a blog post about how the author wishes to see “struggling people” in the pews. He describes them as reeking of smoke or obviously drunk, and how terribly we need these “kinds” of people. Often I think we need to become more comfortable with the terribly and wonderfully human parts of ourselves so that it’s not so painful or difficult to recognize that same humanity in others.

Curt, your blog post is fantastic. It resonated with me.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 30 Dec 2017, 11:12
by Gerald
I remember many years ago (I was in my late 20s) an elderly woman who lived down the street from me had lost her husband of many years. I didn't know her particularly well so was aware of her loss without knowing much about it. I happened to be walking past her one morning as she watered her lawn. I suddenly was in one of those situations where NOT acknowledging her husband's passing was simply unacceptable. But how to appropriately acknowledge that to a woman I didn't really know? In the end, I muttered some sort of "sorry to hear of your husband's death" which she barely acknowledged before going in her house. She was not gracious in accepting my mumbled condolences. I wasn't offended. I understood that she was not in a place where she had the energy to try to make me more comfortable. I was more embarrassed for not handling the situation better. In fact, if I had stopped to ask more about her loss or if I had made the effort to get to know her better BEFORE her husband's death, it would have gone differently. (For the record, this woman came to my house on another occasion a while later and was indeed very gracious.) My point is that "mourning with those that mourn" is HARD. It requires not just energy and compassion after an individual's death but some of that BEFORE anyone dies. Being in my 50s, I now (sadly) attend a number of funerals and viewings of relatives, ward members, and friends' parents. I've improved in offering my condolences but it still feels awkward from time to time. The simple "I'm sorry" just feels so inadequate to give an individual grieving. I know that many take comfort in the idea of eternal families and seeing that person again in the next life. But I suspect some do not.

Those interested might want to check out this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/arch ... ds/507752/

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 02 Jan 2018, 09:12
by AmyJ
Gerald wrote:
30 Dec 2017, 11:12
My point is that "mourning with those that mourn" is HARD. It requires not just energy and compassion after an individual's death but some of that BEFORE anyone dies.
I had the opportunity this weekend to practice what I have been thinking about. I went to sit with a dear sister in the ward for several hours while her husband went out for groceries. This is my dear friend who adopted my children as her beloved grandchildren - she LIKES to babysit my children once a quarter so that my husband and I get out. She brings things for my children because she was thinking of them. She volunteers to watch my oldest daughter overnight regularly to make it easier for scheduling (we both live out in the country).

She was in a lot of pain, and not herself to the medications she is on to heal. I was there to call 911 if she fell (which she didn't - but her condition was such that a fall would be possible). My secondary role was to distract her and help her relax so she can rest and heal. She is fully expected to heal - it is just taking longer with complications that makes it difficult.

I was honored to have the trust and opportunity to be there. I also felt helpless because I am not trained for monitoring patients. I fell back onto my common sense training - monitoring breathing, mobility etc.

For me, I was mourning with her that she was in pain and not in a good place. I did my best to help her as best as I knew how. From what I can tell, it was sufficient - but was a mere drop in the bucket.

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 10 Jan 2018, 11:21
by Roy
Curt Sunshine wrote:
28 Dec 2017, 14:20
Lots of Mormons do a wonderful job grieving and helping others mourn; lots do not. Lots of Mormons are good at that when it involves death; lots are not. Far fewer are good at other, less "tangible" types of grief (like blows to faith), although some are great in that area, as well.

Most active members are comforted by our theology when it comes to death.
First let me state that most humans are not comfortable with death. Because of that uncomfortableness we often have trouble interacting with people in morning.

Mormons are exceptional (better than most) at helping families with tangible setbacks - such as a broken limb or loss of a job.

When it comes to death there are a few things that make Mormons less good at mourning with those that mourn.

1) Our belief in eternal families is limited. It only applies to temple sealed families. This can make it harder to mourn with those that are not temple sealed.
2) We tend to pride ourselves on not grieving deeply.
"Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it, and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope.”
The above quote equates mourning with losing "sight of [glory]" and sets us apart from others in the way that we mourn. There is a fair amount of social pressure to "grieve well" and recover fairly quickly.
3) This is related to point 2 but I believe that it deserves it's own point. I wonder if Mormon belief of eternal families dismisses or defers the grief. Our belief seems to dismiss that a real loss was sustained.
We were once considering doing a malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit. A Mormon friend of mine responded tactlessly, "What for? You will get your daughter back in the eternities anyway." The loss was dismissed as only temporary. Recently a very LDS family had to put their aged dog to sleep. Rather than mourning for the loss of the dog it was said that "We know we are going to have her again in heaven." I found this interesting because I do not believe that we have any specific LDS doctrine about being reunited with pets (other than that everything gets resurrected). However this families strong belief in eternal families seemed to completely invalidate any need for grief - as if the dog were merely going on an extended vacation.
Therefore a large part of what can be comforting about our theology is that the loss is only temporary. I do not know if there is any psychological benefit to dealing with and accepting death as a permanent loss vs. a transition and temporary separation only.
Like so many things in Mormonism, it seems to work wonderfully for some and it gets trumpeted as a "one size fits all" solution for all.
For some Mormons it may become an excuse to avoid dealing with death and death related thoughts and issues.

Re: Grief - Mourning with those that Mourn

Posted: 10 Jan 2018, 12:35
by Curt Sunshine
I agree completely, Roy.

I simply will add that one person's avoidance is another person's comfort - and true comfort is a wonderful thing for those who feel it, even though it can hurt others who don't feel it when it is assumed they should.