Today I will lead a group of about 20 kids in an activity to create a “goodbye bouquet” of well wishes for a family who has left our homeschool cohort. The family is still in the area, but relationships have changed and many of the moms are at a loss how to move forward and put words to the grief they feel having lost a dear friend.
When my sister left the church, she feared how her choice would affect her closest relationships. She worried how her husband would react and how things might change with her siblings and very large, Mormon family. She lamented that people she thought were true friends at church no longer spoke to her.
A few years ago I went through my own dramatic shift with the church. While I continue to attend for now, I worried about many of the same things – how would my relationships with family and friends shift? Could I speak openly and intimately and be accepted as I am? Would people wish me well on my spiritual journey?
It was around this time that I stumbled on a small drawing at an art museum. It was of the Salt Lake City temple going up in flames, titled, The loss of my faith. “Loss always produces grief, consciously or unconsciously, and will come out one way or another, whether the person intends it to or not. Mourning, however, is the conscious acknowledgment of loss.”1 As a society we have mourning rituals for death, but what about for the loss of friends or the loss of faith?
My journey has been bumpy and I’ve yet to see what’s around the bend. Knowing this journey is good and necessary has made the grief no less real or painful. I loved the church and the changed relationship feels like losing a good friend. Mourning for me has taken the shape of validation, summed up best by this quote, “Validating is about learning to tolerate negative emotions. We want to fix what’s wrong, but end up sending the message that happiness is the only feeling that is ok. People want to be heard. They want to know grief is ok and doesn’t need to be fixed. Acceptance lets someone know sadness or anger is normal and can be managed.”2
As people’s relationships to the church change, some feel anger, some feel sorrow, some feel peace, and some feel all of these at once. Writing out my feelings, accepting them, and accepting love from those willing to share my burdens have all been ways I have mourned. I have turned to my Heavenly Mother and feel her presence cradle me, just like an earthly mother might cradle a child.
How do you grieve changed relationships with friends, family, or the church?
Have you created or found mourning rituals in your life to help process your grief?
1. Pollock, David C. and Ruth E Van Reken. Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Nicolas Brealy Publishing, 2009.
2. Hall, Karyn D. and Melissa Cook. The Power of Validation: Arming Your Child Against Bullying, Peer Pressure, Addiction, Self-Harm and Out of Control Emotions. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2012