This past week marked both Día de los Muertos and All Saints’ Day, special opportunities to honor the pain of losing loved ones; remember our loved ones’ fullest selves; and receive comfort in believing – even knowing – that our separation from them is only temporary. These holidays throw a wrench into the daily experience of grief in the best ways possible.

They offer us permission to grieve, and this permission is something that we can bring into our daily lives long after these special holidays pass.

Oftentimes, grief is deeply isolating, especially if we’re expected to already be “over” the loss we’re mourning because “enough” time has passed. In my training as a hospital chaplain, I learned just how grief-averse our society is. We are scared to acknowledge our griefs, to honor them, to believe that they have a rightful and healthy place individually and communally not just the week the loss happens, but in ongoing ways. We push away and pathologize people who are open about experiencing enduring grief. What utter nonsense.

In the name of Love, I give thanks that these holidays normalize grief and remind us that our separation from loved ones is not forever. The encouragement about the temporariness of it all doesn’t remove all the pain, and yet this belief and these holidays offer a window into what is to come in the future and what can be right now. They are times marked out on the global calendar to pause and to keep nourishing “continuing bonds” with our loved ones. If only on these days, we are reminded that we are not alone in our grief. People around the world stand in front of altars, pictures, and items that remind them of the best times. They weep. They laugh. They grieve. They rejoice. We do, too.

Here are some of my favorite prayers for grief that aren’t only relevant on two days in November. May you feel the love flowing from their words. May they offer you a sense of comfort and solidarity. May you always remember that you are not alone.

 

Author, Professor, Podcaster, and Cancer Patient Kate Bowler: “a blessing for the day we mourn our dead (All Saints’ Day)”

today we are drawn into remembrance. the complexity of love and loss both warms our hearts and chills our bones.
invisible connections are revealed just as the light of the sun illuminates the lines of a web, we see that our lives are connected to those who are no longer here.
blessed are we who acknowledge the impressions made by those who’ve passed a child’s nose, a joke carried on, a chair left in our name, a story that we now tell.
blessed are you who have learned to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense without them.
and blessed are you with grief present still
who carry the weight of surviving a loved one,
of keeping the memories and sharing the stories.
O God, you alone know the whole of it. you know their sufferings, their joys, their hopes, their winding paths and every movement of their souls.
restore our souls, even as you receive theirs. welcome them in with the kind of embrace we wish we could give them.
blessed is the time they were given and the time you now have.
whether in life or in death, love is there.

 

Adapted from Doctoral Student of Theology Kevin Vollrath: “When we remember those that have gone before us”

May you remember the great number of loved ones that surround you,
even those in the place beyond what we can know.

May you see your loved ones
before,
behind,
beside,
and above you
wherever you go.

May you remember all whom you have loved and all who have loved you.

May you continue to draw love and strength from every loving relationship,
those present and those temporarily separated by death.

May you hear the voices of every loved one who went before you
cheering you on,
and may your voice join the chorus
of cheers and joy.

 

Adapted from Author and Pastor Terry Stokes (who has a new book coming out on November 9!): “For when it is difficult to pray”

 O God,

My desire, willingness, and ability to pray is gone.

At times, I want to be far from you, to be angry and apathetic.

At times, I want to pray, but no words come.

Help me to sit and listen, to have my soul stilled.

As I do, restore me to words of life,
words that will help me articulate my feelings and thoughts once again.

Truly, there is still hope out there,
and for it, my soul will wait.

 

 Adapted from Chaplain Rachel Rim: “For When Despair is Near”

O God,

Carry me through this time when my spirit feels like it is breaking;
Feed my soul with tenderness when life feels cruel and apathetic;
Renew my hope with encounters of beauty;
Give me rest that satiates my ache;
Make a home for me in a world that feels unfamiliar;
Show me that I myself am home to something lovely and true.
Amen.

 

Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold (she/her/hers) is a palliative care and intensive care hospital chaplain at a children’s hospital in New York; a candidate for ordination in the PC(USA); avid cook; traveler (on hiatus); friend and family member to many; writer; and musician.

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