On grieving: “Life loves on”

UNC Hospital Chaplain Rev Darryl Owens will lead a community-wide event on Saturday, May 6, at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of the University Baptist Church, 100 S. Columbia St.,  titled Coping with Covid's Emotional Impact and Beyond: Strategies for Dealing with Loss and Healing in a New Age. The event is co-sponsored by the First Baptist Church and University Baptist Church. Free parking is available in the church parking lot. Photo courtesy of Darryl Owens.


By Jock Lauterer

In her new book, “On Grief: Love, Loss and Memory” author Jennifer Senior cites a quote from Bobby McIlvaine, a young man lost in the 9/11 Twin Towers attack, who had penned in his diary, “Life loves on.”

The notion that love and grief are somehow inextricably linked is a theme that Queen. Elizabeth popularized when, after 250 of her fellow citizens died in 9/11, she said famously, “Grief is the price of love.”

Liz Carter, 72,  of Chapel Hill knows a thing or two about loss and “life loves on.” The former school board member and First Baptist Church member has lost multiple family members. Most recently, she lost a niece to Covid. “I don’t do death well,” she concedes honestly, “But I’ve learned, it’s a part of the process.”

Carter has her own set of three coping mechanisms that she says helped her work her way through loss and grief: Being immersed in a nurturing family comes first.

“We know a thing or two about grieving,” she says. “We always take care of each other. In addition, Carter says she relies on the support of her strong faith community, as well as taking advantage of therapy and counseling.

Community coping and healing

On May 6, our community will have a chance to explore ways of coping creatively with the necessary work of grieving when two historic Chapel Hill churches sponsor a community-wide event titled, “Coping with Covid’s Emotional Impact and Beyond: Strategies for Dealing with Loss and Healing in a New Age.”

The public service event is the result of the historic multicultural partnership of faith between the First Baptist Church, a historically Black church, and the University Baptist Church, a historically white church.  The event is set for May 6 ay 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of University Baptist Church, 100 South Columbia St., with free parking in the church parking lot.

The session will be led by the Rev. Darryl Owens, women’s services chaplain and bereavement counselor, dept. of pastoral care, UNC Hospitals, who says we are living through a particularly challenging time.

“The grief experienced during, and as a result of the epidemics of Covid 19 and racism during the shutdown, are like no other time in our lives,” he explains, adding, “The approaches have to be creative to do things we may not have tried previously.”

As he leads this community meeting addressing loss and grief, Owens wants participants to feel the presence of MLK’s “beloved community.”   Owens says, “Please know,  you are not alone if you are struggling as a result. There is help and community (here) for you.”

The community-wide session is the result of a creative brainstorming session between two leaders from the historically-linked churches: Minister Carolyn Daniels of FBC and Betsy Watson of UBC, who say they hope the session will give attendees a toolbox for “coping with the challenges and stressors of our Covid age.”

In addition, the spoken word poetry of Chapel Hill Poet Laureate CJ Suitt will undoubtedly offer thought-provoking words of healing.

It’s never too late to love — or grieve

If Queen Elizabeth and Bobby McIlvaine are correct, then our struggle with our suffering over loss is a noble and worthy cause, and maybe even a privilege. For is the opposite also not true? That those poor souls who can’t truly love, never have to — or get to truly experience grief. Or to put it in the active verb form, never grieve.

That’s a question wrapped in a statement which has long challenged this writer. A septuagenarian who lost his estranged older brother 66 years ago — and who, never having loved him, never grieved one whit for the sibling’s untimely death at 15. Only as an elder have I opened this heart of stone, embraced my love for Nick, and thence opened the floodgates of grief. Six decades later, sobbing, I begged his forgiveness. Finally, as we scribblers are wont to do, I threw myself into writing. In this case, Nick’s story, a therapeutic and healing journey — what Pope Francis calls “a pilgrimage of penance.”

So, that’s my little cliff notes pamphlet on grieving, a mere drop in the ocean of other narratives from those of us struggling to come to terms with loss in all its forms. 

Yes, life does goes on — and even “loves” on. I am reminded by Mitch Albom in his book, “Tuesdays With Morrie,” that it’s never too late for healing. Writes Albom:  “Death ends a life, but not a relationship.”

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