Grief & Graduation
They (students) are grieving, as am I. We are in desperate need of someone to tell us it is all right if you cannot operate as your pre pandemic self. Let us, as educators, be the voice that tells our children, I see you and I hear you. And it is OK to grieve. What is an education for, if not to show students what it means to be human?Claire Marie Grogan, Education Week (March 31, 2021)
Sorrow is better than merrimentEcclesiastes 7:3-4a
Because a sad face may lead to a glad heart.
The heart of the wise in the house of mourning.
Before I came to Valpo, I was pastor of a congregation in Franklin, TN. I joined the staff there in November 2014 — just a few months after a congregation member named Meredith lost her husband, Jerry.
As many of you know, the grieving never really ends. It changes. It stops being the only thing we can feel, but it continues being a part of us.
One of the ways Meredith continued to express her grief was this: whenever we dove into the topic of prayer during a small group study, Meredith would say: “But it’s not that simple. We had hundreds of people praying for Jerry, and he still died.”
I loved Meredith’s honesty. I loved that she wouldn’t settle for easy answers. And I am still inspired that she carried that question about prayer so close to her grieving heart, and yet she still found her home in her faith, she still served God through the Church, and she still prayed for others. Wow.
Meredith bravely shared both her grief and her doubt — two things we’re not usually comfortable expressing out loud in our culture (even, sadly, at church). Her sharing became a blessing. I hope it was a blessing for her, in giving her a chance for self-expression and receiving support. I believe it was a blessing on the whole small group, because it gave us the opportunity to share our own grief and doubt — and then to go deeper into our questions about God, together.
So back to Valpo and the here and now.
The end of the academic year is always a bittersweet time. Graduates are excited and celebrating — and they grieve as they say goodbye to the place and the groups of people that have been their home for the last few monumental years. Other students, faculty, and staff are excited for them, too — and we wonder what our community will be like without them. We prepare our hearts to miss each other, even as we look forward to what comes next.
Of course this year brings added layers of grief to the last weeks of the semester. Graduates are limited to two guests at commencement, and their professors and staff mentors won’t even get to be there. Our end-of-the-year parties have to be limited in number and we can’t serve food. We’re all still disappointed about the things we’ve had to give up or change: from singing together in worship to traditions involving human touch to just seeing one another’s faces. We mourn what used to be and what could have been.
And yes, it is good to focus on the positive: the feat of making it through college during a pandemic, the hope given us by the vaccines
But it is also good to mourn. To name what we miss, what we wish, what we’ve lost. Because when we do this — especially when we do this together — it gives us the opportunity to actually work through our grief. To process it and to put it into its correct place in our spirits. And in talking about it together, we are turning that grief into rich experiences: real conversation, time with people we trust, mutual support — maybe even laughter.
So: give yourself time to mourn if you need it. Give those around you the space to mourn, too. Be the brave one to open up first, to make the way for others.
Because when we grieve together — that’s when God most easily turns even our grief into something like a blessing.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
-Jesus, Matthew 5:4
Prayer: Holy God, through the scriptures we see that you embrace our disappointment and grief. Remind us that you are here, whether we are full of joy or full of sadness. We offer our truest feelings to you, trusting that you can shape all things to be part of your love. When we doubt or when we cannot see beyond the now, give us faith to carry us through. We pray in the name of Jesus, who showed us the way. Amen.
May 5, 2021
Rev. Katherine Museus Dabay serves as university pastor at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions with University Pastor James A. Wetzstein.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A call to courage for 2021
- A charming tale for over-achievers
- A Lesson On Beans … and Being
- A New Place
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- A Time of Dust
- Acquiring a peaceful spirit
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Anastasis: the Greatest Story of God’s Saving Power
- Another kind of darkness
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- As if we needed a reminder
- Beacons of hope
- Better Together
- Blessings As You Go
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Fear of the Lord
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Getting through this together
- God is not overwhelmed
- Good Friday
- Grief & Graduation
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How do you keep from giving up hope?
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- Imagining Eternity
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In everything, grateful
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Jesus among us
- Killing off our future selves
- Knowing a Good Thing When We See It
- Lessons in fire building
- Let there be light!
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- Naming our demons
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- On the day after the night before
- Persistent and Extravagant
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Praying for Reconciliation
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Rest is Holy
- Right where we are
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Surprisingly Simple: Breathe!
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Trouble with Mammon
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You might be a Lutheran if…
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- WWJD? We already know
- Walking in the Light of Jesus’ Resurrection
- We had hoped
- We’re on a mission from God
- What do you do with your anger?
- What good is a shepherd?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When God uses something terrible for good
- When heaven & earth click
- When joy and sadness live together
- When stress overwhelms
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- When we are moved
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Won’t you be my neighbor?
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future