Riding the Roller Coaster of Change
Riding through change is often like riding an unpredictable roller coaster. You may not literally be on a roller coaster but you are experiencing similar sensations and uncertainties.
Some of you may enjoy the ride and find yourself looking around each corner with excitement and anticipation – you may be saying, “I cannot wait to see what comes next.”
Some of you may feel sick. This ride is too much. I am not able to keep down my lunch!
And some of you may be somewhere in between the excitement and the feeling that you may lose your lunch at any moment.
The fact that each of us experience this ride differently is very important. Your experience is not wrong. Your experience is unique and valuable- for you- and for the community.
Elissa Bishop-Becker wrote a book about her own personal journey with loss entitled the Grief Spiral. Bishop-Becker is clear that the five stages of grief as outlined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross are important to understand: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I know that further research has expanded these five original areas.
Bishop-Becker is clear that the process through grief is not linear. Rarely, does a person or community start at the beginning and move systematically through each one with a nice, clean ending. She believes that we experience grief more like a spiral. We spiral through the different stages. We move back and forth and often experience more than one at a time. Experiencing grief is not a clean, neat process. It is chaotic…. Messy…. Uncomfortable.
And it is important to note that grief and traumas layer upon each other. This congregation is experiencing the most recent grief from the departure of your minister. But you all have experienced other in the recent months:
- The pandemic brings its share of grief and trauma
- Supreme Court rulings that change the way we exist in the world today and foreshadow future changes.
- Mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas. And many others.
- The weight that comes from the hate, violence and building microaggressions because of skin color, gender expression and identity, sexuality, economic standing and other targeted identities.
- Troubling world events like the war in Ukraine and Ethiopia, Afghanistan and the war on drugs in Mexico.
- You have experienced the grief which comes with the climate crisis
- And it is possible that each of you are experiencing your own personal and family grieving due to events which are close to you.
These layer upon each other. It is a lot. And the weight of this journey through grief becomes heavier.
I encourage you to hold these as you are best able and own that it is a lot to hold.
And while you rest in this realization and search for stable ground, it is important to note that the way in which we are in relationship is shifting – just like everything else.
These are difficult times. It is alright to sit in relationship with the overwhelming sense of all that is upon us. It is alright to be right where you are knowing that each of your experiences all these transitions differently. Your big feelings and your insecurity are welcome here!
So what do you do now? I invite you to do one or more of the following – as individuals and as a community.
- You sit with all the truths that surround you. You allow yourself to feel all the feelings in your heart and body. Grieving is a full body experience.
- Talk with each other. You listen carefully making sure there is equal space for listening and sharing.
- If you have expectations of people in this congregation or this community, double check that these people and this congregation have agreed to meet those expectations. Expectations are only agreements when all parties agree to them in a communal practice.
- Revisit your covenants. Do they still apply? And do they provide guidance on how you will call each other back into covenant in love and trust?
- You understand that all you do and all you are is love. You act and respond as if love is the greatest force in the world.
- And you reach out for support – I am here. Rev. Mykal Slack will be here in July and August. And your contract minister and religious educator search team is deep into the work of finding your future leadership. You are in good hands.
- And when you can – you laugh. Tell each other funny stories! Share wonderful memories! Laugh as a way to help your body expel the grief which is inside you.
You are in a good space – you are loved. You are loving. You will thrive. I look forward to watching the future which is your story.
Dr. Michele Grove, religious education consultant
If you wish to read Elissa Bishop-Becker’s book, here is the information:
Bishop-Becker, Elissa. Loss and Growth: The Grief Spiral. Whiz Bang, LLC: Key West, FL, 2013. 374 pages.