As our Marine Corps community grieves the combat loss of our heroes, LtCol Raible, and Sgt Atwell, we can expect certain stages in our grief experience before we reach acceptance and renewal. Denial and anger are two of the common stages of grief that are particularly painful for us. Let me describe some ways we can navigate through these troubled waters.
First, practicing too much restraint physically, spiritually and emotionally keeps us from properly missing our loved one or comrade in arms who has died. To deny our tears the right to flow when crushing pain is upon us, keeps us from really experiencing our loss. As we name our pain when it comes, and let our friends and family help us through our pain, we move to the sure support of God and trustworthy children of God. When we allow this to occur, deep faith and hope can take over in our hearts rather than relying on shallow routine and easy answers.
I am always impressed by the grief Jesus presented in the Christian Scriptures when it comes to combatting denial. “Jesus wept,” is the verse that described his approach when he dealt with the loss of his friend Lazarus. When we weep or have other healthy emotional reactions to the passing of our heroes we’re in the company of the Savior by showing the reality of our pain.
Second, anger also meets us in our grief. The torn edges of the end of the personal story of our young heroes find us with questions unanswered and some questions unanswerable. But our voices of anger need to find loving listening ears in order to give us the opportunity to put words to our fears, sadness, and struggle against the unfairness of loss. Prayer to God and private talking to spiritual counselors or ministers are healthy ways to release these angry words, but much heavy lifting for this anger happens among friends with the tenderness of an offer to listen to someone in pain.
As a Chaplain I look forward to the time when Marines and Sailors and family members reach the acceptance and renewal stages of grief, but I want you to know I’ll be with you and other caregivers will be with you in the more difficult stages of grief as well. I am praying for your emotional and spiritual health and am looking forward to hearing of your stories of healing from the pain of the loss of our heroes.