The Art of Grieving: Saying Goodbye
Being a part of a congregation, like All Souls, helps me learn how to be human – by which I mean how to engage in the acts central to one’s humanity. At All Souls I have learned to love and listen; strive and accept outcomes as they are; contribute and not control; to welcome and to lose. Of all these, the most tender and enduring is grieving. Grief is real at All Souls. Grief for the congregation we were. Grief as part of a healthy change process. Grief over past conflicts. We grieve for members who have died or departed.
No one seeks to grieve; it tenderizes us to our own vulnerability and immortality. AND nothing makes us more human because it reveals to us the preciousness of our own life, and of our world and loved ones. Because congregational life helps us draw our circle wider – we literally come to know hundreds of people we might not otherwise – we have more times of joy and celebration but we also have more moments of grief.
A minister’s departure can trigger grief as well; particularly because there is a three-year “no contact” rule and because some develop a close and open relationship of trust with their minister. Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to feel about this relationship ending. Each person varies according to their personality, their history, and their preferences. These feelings can take the form
of anger or frustration at the person for leaving. There can be sadness, regret, or guilt. There can also be a sense of relief–being thankful that the relationship is over. Avoiding these uncomfortable feelings can result in people experiencing lingering thoughts and feelings for years to come. This sometimes make it difficult for the congregation to really engage their incoming ministers, and next chapter.
A good goodbye can help both with grieving and with welcoming what is to come. Approaching the end of our ministerial relationship with intentionality can result in greater fulfillment for both everyone.
I appreciate those of you who have taken the time, either on Sunday or by scheduling an appointment with me, to have these leaving-taking conversations early and often. I promise to accept with open arms all of the feelings that get expressed and to listen to what you need to say. What I know is that, for me, serving All Souls has been a blessing beyond words. If you want to schedule a time to zoom call, you can visit: calendly.com/asiminister.
My hope and blessing for you now is that we end our relationship, with me as your minister, in a way that leaves you ready to form a new relationship with your next minister and that energizes All Souls for its future.
Thank you again, humbly, for calling me as your minister nearly seven years ago.
– Rev. Anastassia