Grieving While Leading

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.” Lamentations 3:20 NLT

I used to say that if I were to ever write a book the title might be: “Grieving While Leading.” Every time I made that comment to other pastors their heads would nod as they resonated with the theme. That’s never been more true than now as every leader is grieving while leading a congregation, a company or a family.

Everyone in our culture is now dealing with some level of grief. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review they noted that in an on-line team meeting when one of the participants noted feeling grief, everyone understood. In the midst of, and even in the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis, everyone is grappling with loss. They made the point that, “If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it.”

While my wife and I have been in a great place of provision and peace, we are still grieving. We’ve lost a variety of conveniences and freedoms that we always took for granted. Now we can’t even walk our dog without at least sporting a courtesy face mask tied around our neck. Worse, we can’t worship together with our family of faith, dine in our favorite restaurants or even hug our grandkids. 

Many others are enduring far more grievous griefs than ours. For some it’s sickness or even the loss of a loved one. For others it’s loss of income or even a job. For still others it’s the loss of the grand celebration of a graduation, wedding or vacation. One thing for certain, you and every one else both near and far is grieving along with you. While their loss won’t be exactly the same, they all are grieving none the less.

Grief is both unsettling and confusing. There’s a reason why many couples divorce after the loss of a child. Human beings grieve differently. Some days are better than others. Some moments bring surprising pleasures while others prompt surprising pain. That’s the human experience.

So, how are you grieving now? Recently I’ve heard myself respond to those asking how I am doing by lightheartedly saying, “I’m doing great, but I think I’m going to soon be doing better!” I was being honest in that moment, but not necessarily sensitive to their feelings in that moment. Imagine how someone might feel hearing a comment like that from me when they just received news that their salary has been cut or their company will close?

There are two categories right now: those who have merely lost some conveniences and those who have lost, or fear losing far more. On one thing we can all agree, life as we once knew it is long gone. After 9/11 while many grieved the loss of loved ones, the only residual effects for most of us are the ongoing TSA hassles at the airport. The Covid-19 crisis will be different. This will be a culture shaping and re-shaping moment.

Everyone knows life is and will be different in the future, but no one fully understand how, not even pastors. The leaders I coach and consult with now agree that church gatherings of the future will always be a hybrid of both in person and on-line. It’s not ever going to be an either/or. For now, every church leader is living with a sense of loss, while at the same time celebrating some other things. One just said, “I don’t think I should be feeling so good about working so much from home!” He is even now connecting and accomplishing more than he could ever have imagined.

This we know, the power of God has not been quarantined.
  • We can still hear messages on-line.
  • We can still meet with friends and loved ones on-line.
  • We can still call, text, email and update each other via social media.
  • We can still, and even better still, be still before God!
Yes, I lament some losses along with everyone else. I just don’t want to forget the lessons of this “awful" season, a season like no other and a season that may last for the rest of our lives.

May this awful season in some ways become an awe filled season for us all, as we live on high alert to the lessons of God.

2 Comments

  1. Dennis, great to hear from you! You are on the front lines of grief and know that the gospel is not in quarantine! Blessings, Alan

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