To Hold Grief and Belief

This post has been shared with the generous permission of Rachael, writer and truth teller of Queer in Faith. In their words, “We are a part of an ongoing story of redemptive movement toward equality, inclusion and justice for all humans.” This post is entitled ‘To Hold Grief and Belief.’

You can find more of Rachael’s words on her blog, including the original post here. I met Rachael on Instagram, and am always learning from their stories, and am slowly being convinced to join them on twitter. Also, I eagerly anticipate the release of their How To Be Human Podcast.

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I cannot express how important it is to spend time in the words of others and to try as best as we can to listen well and with openness. I hope always to make room to lift up the voices that teach me. I pray always to be a student.

Here are Rachael’s words.


Last Sunday I took a “field trip,” as my therapist liked to call it, to the site of my trauma. Tomorrow is one year since the altering of my world. And my entire body yearns to write about it. Not to write about the details, but yet to describe the isolation and torment of the relationship to grief inside my Christian faith.

I’ve spent the last year in my writing sprinkling water droplets of this trauma inside my pieces. And now, as I approach this very odd and unimaginable anniversary, I want to share a few thoughts…thoughts I hope bring a new perspective on how we interact with such “intense” grief / trauma in our communities, with our friends and in our own being.

Lent is really where the urge to write about this started to surface like hot lava. It is of no surprise that a valley filled season – the one I’ve been in for a year now – would evoke viewing texts differently and trying to find where the suffering in the Bible could speak to where I am presently. This is what we do – as Christians – we are on a search to find our existence in one another through the lens of a book older than the dirt of which we came from and I’d like to say we can still find ourselves in this story.

In those few weeks of Lent that I managed to write every day I felt more call to my processing from the Spirit than I had in an entire year. The valley of death; the valley of unknown forces us to a place of intimacy like no other. I’m here to say so does trauma.

One year ago someone tried to take my life from me. In many ways, they succeeded in derailing it significantly. And currently I am awaiting the start of many things – seminary, further discernment in ordination, healing, a trial for justice and walking the valley ever so slowly to a hill of brightness.

I’m tired of holding this truama and looking “normal” to the world. Because quite honestly I am far from normal. Sharing any of this isn’t an ask for empathy, nor sympathy – it’s merely to pose a few questions and to share into this dark spectrum of internet humans that I am in fact still here. 

There have been two chairs in the imagination of my mind and now more so in my body which have held two words: grief & belief.

Throughout this year I have been asking both of these friends of mine to speak up, to show me a way through and equally yelling at them for trying to isolate me.

When you face death there are portions of your belief systems that come to be no longer constructs or hard to imagine. If there ever was a time where I was closer to understanding the anguish and pain of the crucifixion, it is now. If there ever was a time where I felt Thomas wasn’t so much of a doubter, but a human who did not want to forget harm and also himself facing the shock of trauma, it is now.

These stories of pain, loss and tragedy are no longer stories that create a “what the hell”reaction, but instead pose deeper questioning with them. What have I been missing inside the violence and harm of the Bible? And, why in our Churches today do we isolate this harm, stuff this harm into a pretty like repentance box and never discuss it – never hold it with ourselves and others?

Let’s ask our chairs:

I’ve been asking grief a lot of questions like….

“Why do you urge me to remain in isolation?” “Are you evil?” “Why will no one touch me because of you?” 

In return, I’ve been asking my belief questions like…

“Why does it feel so isolating to be dealing with grief as a Christian?” “This isn’t how my core feels this is supposed to work, is it?” “Where are the siblings who remain?”

What I have realized in the course of this year is that I’ve been asking these two words to unify – to become one in a way that harmoniously makes sense and creates healing.

And just as Jacob wrestled with God, I am wrestling for my blessing. I’m wrestling for acknowledgment. I’m wrestling for a change in how we have dialogue in our churches and in our faith that doesn’t negate harm as brokenness, but sees it as human condition which by proxy is held just as tightly as the joy we yearn for – it is a part of our human experience. And when we do not acknowledge it we are erasing harm. We are sending a message that stability is looking ok, praying a lot and holding our pain in silence.

Here’s the point where I share a vocabulary sheet of re-written words.

The first word I heard after this traumatic event that enraged me was “stability.” This idea that once I had re-ordered my life again, tended to tasks and found wellness I would present as stable and feel good. This is a lie by any right.

When you have your world turned upside down the reality sinks in that plans break, patterns cannot always stay the same and stability is an unhealthy perspective (this is my opinion).

I quickly replaced this word with rhythm. Music has measures complete with hair raising volume, softness, pauses and measures of complete and utter silence. Rhythm adjusts to its tempo and in life the tempo is often changing. Rhythm can adjust and is allowed to pause without question of being “broken.”

This leads to the second word: “brokenness”

For the love of all that is holy in this world, the day we stop referring to brokenness in churches will be a blessed day. We must take into account that this word inherently means something is wrong in you.

At this point in my life, I don’t believe God created wrongness in me or of you. God cultivated this vast depth of imagination and choice to choose how we interact with our creator, the world and our flourishing. God wills and desires so much for our lives, the lives of others and the world at large.

We entered in shalom and the world, which does not live in shalom, rocks our peace. I believe it is why we spin in our minds, bodies and spirits to discover how we can play our vital role in creating this heaven on earth space. And because it was first in us and in the breath given to us, we know shalom exists.

I have not once in this year used this word to describe where I am. Part of this has to deal with living with trauma — we don’t want to be “broken.” We don’t want to admit that harm has taken place, that our lives have altered and we have to fight like hell every day to just breathe. Again, I believe, broken means something is wrong in you.

Our bodies know when we are under attack. Our blood cells seek to find the bacteria at play and eradicate it. Our bodies, I feel, do the same in our emotions and in our harm.

How do I fill this void with something new? How do I move through to even get to a space where I can feel less overwhelmed by the void itself? How can I fall into my body once being near forced out?

The body knows and it most certainly keeps score and it is certainly not broken after trauma. It’s working at its highest function to make things new.

So, why in our churches and in our society do we seek out to discredit the body and discredit the harm as brokenness we must drown out?

When this took place a year ago I wasn’t screaming at God about how broken I was…I was screaming at God to show me how to heal because I had zero idea of how to sit with grief, harm and this unthinkable acts against me.

Now, portions of my experience no one could prepare a person for – but to move through emotion and grieve… well that could be a practice.

I’ve spent the last year also researching different religions practices around grief. And, thankfully because I love a woman who loves podcasts more than I do I came across an episode on Terrible, Thanks for Asking that discussed Shiva – a Jewish practice for grief.

Shiva is the third of the five stages of mourning in Judaism. It’s a seven day period for those who have lost a loved one to be embraced and comforted by individuals in the community. What continues from Shiva is an openness and understanding that grief unfold differently for each person, but is not to be forgotten.

We are living creatures who desire to be seen in our fullness, in our grief, our trauma, our heavy and our light.

What I have learned most in holding this line of harm is that we are capable of two things: harm & healing. That our grief runs parallel in the human experience with joy. They relate and they work together in harmony. When we try to separate these emotions; these realities we break our bodies in ways God never desired for us in our communities.

Yes, it is true that harm happens. No, I do not have the answers of why such things are allowed in the world and I do not blame God for such terror of the evil that exists. I know and believe greatly that God does not ask of us to hold suffering as a holy and divine calling to experience. I just cannot use that theology in practice.

What I do believe in my being is that God desires healing. God desires Shalom. God desires us to know ourselves and know others. 

We are resurrection people has never meant more in my life than it does right now. My God I am anew once more. Even in the midst of death and suffering God found me, supplied me water when I wasn’t sure of when I would receive my next drink and sustained me to this point. The journey ahead in this horrible unthinkable act is painful. It will be filled with more re-living to get through. I am in the valley of death mourning and shouting Hosanna at the same time.

Grief & Grace. Grief & joy. Grief & love.

We are marked by it. But, we will be free of it as well.

Here I am to say, God willing, your truth be found in my calling, in this living and in our ability to see each other in all that we are and that we may have the ability to sit with the depths of this world and hold it well…

I’m still here.