Grief and Solace

By Erinn Oxford
Executive Director and Pastor,
The Dale Ministries, Toronto

Two funerals in a week. Two community members gone, both too soon and in their own tragic way. When news of these deaths first arrived, I was in disbelief. That feeling lingered, though I found myself doing all the things that make a death feel even more real: telling people, planning a service, searching for photographs, arranging refreshments for a reception. Running on repeat in my head: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. It was as though my brain was trying to remind my heart that solace would come.

I believe that the Beatitudes reveal how God takes the hardest things and makes them sacred.

The origin of the word ‘bless’ means to consecrate and speak well of. Viewed through this lens, the Beatitudes reveal how God consecrates and makes blessed those who are poor and broken, revealing them as precious and having connection to him. Similarly, when we mourn, God is connected to us. God is not absent in death.

I am no stranger to mourning. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2008. My mother died in 2017 after having lived in hospital for more than thirteen years. I have spent my entire adult life walking alongside people in the margins, along the way losing countless friends. In my role as Pastor at The Dale Ministries, I experience on a nearly daily basis the effects of trauma and grief in my community.

What I continue to learn is that grief is a journey, one that changes with time, but never really goes away. You don’t get over a person. Grief eventually softens, though it can just as easily come back with a vengeance. When those waves of grief hit, I choose to ride them, knowing that if I sequester the pain, it will have no choice but to come out eventually. I am continually reminded that “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” God is with me, bringing comfort in the stretches of sorrow and patching it all with unexpected joy.

Two funerals, with just one day separating them felt like too much. That is until I stood at the front of the room, peering out at a sea of people gathered in their grief. Together we prayed, shared stories, and cried until we laughed. There was something healing about remembering. In those moments and in so many since, the mourners became blessed and received the promised comfort.

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