Tasks of Mourning Handout

Excerpted from Alan Wolfelt’s article: “The Mourner’s Six Reconciliation Needs

Acknowledging the reality of the loss

  • Confront the reality of the loss or change. Acknowledge it and talk about it with others

Embracing the pain of the loss

  • It is easier to avoid painful feelings that are associated with a loss, but this need of mourning requires us to acknowledge these feelings and embrace them.
  • Finding ways to express these emotions helps to meet this mourning need
  • Remembering the persons, place, space that is gone
    • Each of us has a relationship of memory with those who are gone or with places we have left. Reflecting on the significance of relationships, objects, spaces that link you to your experience of loss help to change your relationship to those relationships, objects, and spaces that you must let go. The relationship becomes one of memory and appreciation.

Developing a new self-identity

  • Part of anyone’s self-identity comes from the relationships we have with other people. Personal and professional identity is also impacted by our pastoral role and pastoral relationships with congregations. You may find yourself doing new things, or doing things differently, as part of the change in appointment. This can be very draining, it can be anxiety producing, and it can also foster a new confidence. As you work on this need, you may discover new skills you need to cultivate or new aspects of your pastoral identity that were unknown to you or dormant in your last appointment.

Searching for meaning

  • Often with change and/or loss come questions of meaning. When the loss is very difficult, sometimes we want to ask “why” such a loss or change would happen. This might be more common for members of your family (children, spouses) who don’t want to move, or for members of your congregation who don’t want you to leave. Allowing yourself and your family to ask these question and express the emotions behind the questions are important healing needs when experiencing a loss.
  • The congregation might be asking why the cabinet or bishop would do this to them, or some in the congregation who have not experienced a pastoral transition might not understand this aspect of UMC culture. Talking through these questions, offering pastoral care to the difficult feelings, and wondering with your congregation what the change might mean for their vision are some ways you can support yoru congregation in searching for meaning.

Receiving ongoing support from others

  • With regard to this need, Wolfelt states, “The quality and quantity of understanding support you get during your grief journey will have a major influence on your capacity to heal.” Support is crucial to engaging the transition process with awareness and integrity so that you can say goodbye well and fully embrace your new appointment. Whatever your grief looks like, or what the transition raises for you personally, it will be important to have support during this time. Support might look differently at different times, and might require discernment on your part about what you need as you move through this journey. Taking time to identify your needs, emotions, and thoughts about the transition is a crucial part of self-care during the transition.