Grief comes anytime we lose something and lately our nation has had some big losses. The biggest was the 30 brave warriors who went down with their …
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Grief comes anytime we lose something and lately our nation has
had some big losses.
The biggest was the 30 brave warriors who went down with their
helicopter in Afghanistan. Loss of life and peace and property
brings grief that is multiplied by the fact that an enemy
intentionally and violently attacked us. Losing this group of Navy
Seals all at the same time was especially painful. I do not know
how my parent’s generation dealt with their grief when they lost
over 10,000 sons, brothers, husbands and sweethearts on D-Day.
The dads and moms, siblings, relatives and home town folks hurt
in the deepest way because a larger part of them was ripped away.
But as a nation we grieve collectively, often not even knowing how
to feel or what to say. A cloud of sorrow and anger affects the
A whole bunch of people lost a whole lot of money because of the
stock market crash. It is about the bottom line but it is also
about the futility of a lifetime of saving and investing being
eroded by circumstance beyond our control. Control is a terrible
thing to lose, especially if you believe the ones in control of the
business or government are mistaken or corrupt.
A nation can go through grief just like a person or a family and
often the same reactions occur. Some live in denial that there even
is a problem and continue along their merry way. Others bargain
with God, “If you get us out of this mess I’ll never do it again. I
have learned my lesson.” Most of us go through stages of confusion,
anger and blame.
National grief is not limited to the mentioned catastrophes.
Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Phoenix shooting that killed six
and left 14 injured including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the
Gulf Oil Spill stir typical grief reactions. Talk radio hosts from
both sides of the political spectrum blame the other side,
especially the president. Anger inflames the blame to destructive
levels. Perhaps the most common reaction is to go on with our
responsibilities with uncertainty, insecurity and confusion of what
to do next.
A danger with our American culture is to expect that “time will
heal all wounds.” Then we busily distract ourselves with work to
make money that we can spend on things we like and recreation that
is fun. But our unresolved grief keeps us in an unhealthy level of
At times of great national loss we need our leadership to be
pastoral and to recognize the grief and sorrow and lead us through
a grieving process. Pastors need to speak words of comfort and
encouragement to their congregations and each of us needs to look
for opportunities and a safe environment to talk about the
condition of our souls.
The churches of our community have a special opportunity to
minister to this need. Christians begin their doctrine with the
belief of a broken and fallen human condition. Suffering, mistakes
and dysfunction should come as no surprise. When we recognize our
depraved condition and desperate feelings we are closest to finding
comfort in a loving God who redeems us from the fall, forgiveness
from the things we have done wrong and the challenge to forgive
those who sinned against us — the only way to break the cycle of
Most of all, churches have people who have the love and
abilities to sit in the ash heap of life with a grieving soul and
listen as we talk about what is bothering us. As we grieve together
and care for those who are hurting we can heal as a nation. We are
going to suffer loss and grief, but when we find comfort and
healing with a transcendent faith our greatest losses turn into our
Dan Hettinger is founder of the Jakin Group, a ministry of
encouragement and a chaplain with Hospice of Saint John. Contact
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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