To our Veterans, peace on this Veterans Day.
To everyone… Rev David Morris will be exchanging pulpits with me this weekend. I will be away, and he will be at UCN from the Outer Banks. See you at the Dance on the 18th or, the family-friendly Cornbread Bake on Saturday Night the 19th. It is good to come together as a community… let us be with each other!
Four years ago, almost exactly, I was reading an article on the election. A reporter, perhaps realizing that they had not filed enough good stories during the Obama-Romney campaign, sat with and followed a group of young, energetic Romney volunteers, stuck in the Denver airport. They were on their way home on election night, and planes were delayed. They held a prayer vigil asking for a miracle… as the results came in from the east coast. Soon they learned that Romney could not win. Their effort had been for nothing. God had not answered their prayers. How could this be?
The story stuck by me because I wanted to be so happy for these volunteers… they had put their whole heart and soul into the work. They believed, trusted and walked the walk as well. And I knew that on that night Americans would divide themselves into winners and losers. The winners would hope that their wishes would now be realized, and the losers would grieve.
A couple of weeks ago my column listed some books on grief, and you might want look that up. They, like the article, illustrate emotions and reactions. In seminary I learned about research in understanding grief, including Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model from her work as a psychiatrist treating terminally ill patients. The model, first published in 1969, listed five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The work had a narrow focus, training doctors to understand patients who were dying.
The work was later applied to many different situations, without much research or verification. It was applied to other cultures, to families of those dying, to survivors of tragedy and to populations as a group. Of course, then it wasn’t a research result, it was a speculation, or perhaps a rubric to guide possible understanding. Further research has shown the limitations of the model, but it is still a useful way to think about grief.
Each of the young volunteers in Denver had their own feelings and emotions, and we only know what the reporter wrote about them. So we cannot know if something like Kübler-Ross’s model applied to them. This year some of us are personally in post-election grief, though we are not subjects of a newspaper article or psychological study (at least, I am not.) Perhaps the stages of grief can help us understand our own reactions?
Denial – Did you flip channels to see if somehow one network got it wrong? I woke at 7 AM, and turned on the TV… maybe the result would be different?
Anger – Did you cut anyone off in traffic, or insult, or yell? I find that swimming or kneading bread is a good way to express anger. Be ready for other’s anger, and be ready for your own angry outbursts.
Bargaining – In this stage anger has faded, what slim chance do we have for a partial victory?
Depression – Is withdrawing from all effort to live before dying.
Acceptance – It is hard to say what this stage is like, but “you know it when you get there”
As Unitarian Universalists we are called to honor the whole person, head and heart and body and soul, whatever the emotional state. Sometimes caring for each other is done by showing up, by being together, by checking in. Let’s practice our faith.
Thanks to all who came to Wednesday’s Contemplative Service. May we hear the grief and honor it. You are in good hands this Sunday, with David Morris. If you would like to talk, our Caring Team and Lay Pastoral Associates are available while I am gone. Or make an appointment for when I return.
P.S. Sunday November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international observation often called “TDOR”. This year Hampton Roads will hold an event at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton 2PM to 6PM. It is a perfect time to listen to the Trans community and hear of their experiences.
If you go, consider wearing your “Standing on the Side of Love” T-shirt. We do not know what is in the future for the Transgender community, can we stand with them? John Olin Adams will be going, and perhaps UCN folks can meet at the event.
I love you,