The death of loved ones and other difficult transitions really shake us up, and it is very natural for us to want and need to grieve our losses. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t take the time to fully acknowledge our pain and the complicated emotions associated with that person (or situation) or choose to allow our feelings the chance to play out. Many times, we will distract ourselves from these vital processes, or, at times, we will feel cultural pressure to “move on” quickly, to seamlessly return to our normal lives and become our regular, cheery selves before we are really able to do so. As a result of having shortchanged the important processes associated with grieving, we eventually find ourselves in crisis—depressed, volatile, “acting out,” questioning our faith or worldviews, or finding ourselves unable to function well in any of many other ways. In previous historical eras, as well as in many cultures worldwide, the importance of grief/grieving was often honored in much more formal and accepted ways. Through special attention to changes in status and via rituals that designated periods of separation and reintegration and that called for regular memorialization of the deceased, many cultures confront death and its consequences (both for the community and the individuals most closely associated with the deceased person) in a much more straightforward way than what we most often find today. If we don’t live in one of those cultures, what are we losing? What are the personal and social costs of distancing ourselves from death and painful loss, and of not recognizing the importance of grieving processes as vital in our moving forward in life as our best, healthiest, most whole selves? How do contemporary Mormon views and practices stack up in terms of honoring these great needs?
In this episode, Jana Riess, Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen, Cindy Jones, and Connie Ericksen join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a broad as well as personal discussion of grief and grieving in general and within Mormon culture, especially focusing on death but with wider applications, as well. The panel examines key framing ideas found in anthropology and psychology/counseling, as well as sharing personal experiences of loss and grieving processes. What are the emotional tasks that grief calls us to? What are the best ways to mourn and to “mourn with those who mourn”? The discussion also touches on LDS ideas and practices: where are they strong and where do they perhaps fail to encourage some important kinds of expression or healing kinds of involvement by the larger community?
Please listen and then share your ideas below! We want to hear your stories of best practices as well as frustrations and how you are working through them.
Books mentioned in the episode:
Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath
J. William Worden, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy
Other Mormon Matters episodes that connect with these themes:
87–88: Pacific Island Mormon Identities (Ep 88, 17 mins in begins discussion of places Islander culture often overrides LDS ways; 27:50 is where discussion turns directly to funerals and grieving)