NACOS 2.5 – Sermon 05/24/20: Understanding COVID in the context of Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning

NACOS 2.5 – Sermon 05/24/20: Fear and Grief and Faith

Topic #2: Addressing patterns of grief, stress and anxiety in congregations after a tragedy through “Worship as Pastoral Care.”

Here is the second of three sermons to provide “worship as pastoral care” to help my congregation in crisis.

2.5 – Sermon 05/24/20: Fear and Grief and Faith (Eastertide V)
(Understanding COVID in the context of Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning)
Liturgy & Transcript: https://kinmundychurch.org/2020/05/sermon-05-24-20-fear-and-grief-and-faith-eastertide-v/
Look within for links to Sermon audio … Sermon slides as a PDF file.

REFLECTION:
What in this sermon was helpful to you?
What was the human need or problem addressed in the message?
What was the solution suggested in the message?

The goal of this learning exercise is not to analyze the content of the sermon but to experience it and consider how you can use experiences from your own personal life or culture to help others respond in times of crisis in a helpful and healthy manner.

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
What resources from your personal experiences, what you have read, or what resources do you have from your culture – stories, traditions, rituals – that would be helpful to your congregation in reference to the Coronavirus Pandemic to …

“Reality: Accepting the new reality” of the loss.
“Experiencing the pain” of the loss.
“Adjusting to life without” in the midst of the loss.
“Reinvesting in the new reality” and leaving the event of loss behind in the past.

(Phrased this way, Worden’s four tasks become an acronym:
REAR for Reality, Experience, Adjust, Reinvest.)

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NACOS 2.4: Worden’s fourth task, which is to “Reinvest In the New Reality.”

NACOS 2.2: Worden’s second task, which is “Experience the pain of the loss”.

Topic #2: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures utilizing William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning. Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

2.4 Using the mental model of Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning, consider how your congregation is coping with the loss of “the way we have always done it before” due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Who – an individual or a group – is an example of what it is like to be struggling with the fourth task (which is to “Reinvest In the New Reality”)?

QUOTE: Task Four – To Emotionally Relocate the Deceased and Move on with Life
The resolution of the major work of grieving takes place when the fourth task is completed. In simple language, “emotionally relocating” the deceased means moving from the feelings of loss and longing that accompany our awareness that the deceased is really gone from our lives forever to being able to hold the memory of that person in our hearts. They become a part of our lives in a way that allows us to go on living without them. We tend to be less conscious of the loss, less preoccupied with the deceased. Although there may always be times when sadness catches us off guard and we are reminded of how much this loss has affected us, what has happened is that we have let go of a great deal of the emotional energy we had tied up in the relationship with the deceased and it is now available to be invested elsewhere. Sometimes we invest that energy in other relationships; in other instances we may invest it in something that commemorates the life of the deceased.
As with the other three tasks, completion of this task is also related to the meaning of the deceased in our lives. If we have minimal investment in a relationship, we have little emotion to withdraw, so the process is less complex. If we were extremely invested in the deceased, the loss will have more meaning for us and it will take time to move on. [1]

REFLECTION:
What does it look like when someone is ready to live in the new reality of the Coronavirus pandemic? What behaviors do we see?

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
Describe someone at this level, either in your life or in your congregation.
What would you do to help?

SOURCE – Footnotes:
[1]   Tasks of Grief, Maine.gov Suicide Prevention Program.
https://www.maine.gov/suicide/docs/Survivor-Kit/Tasks-Grief.pdf

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NACOS 2.3: Worden’s third task, which is to “Adjust to Life Without.”

NACOS 2.3: Worden’s third task, which is to “Adjust to Life Without.”

Topic #2: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures utilizing William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning. Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

2.3 Using the mental model of Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning, consider how your congregation is coping with the loss of “the way we have always done it before” due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Who – an individual or a group – is an example of what it is like to be struggling with the third task (which is to “Adjust to the Life Without”)?

QUOTE: Task Three – To Adjust to an Environment in Which the Deceased is Missing
The rearranging, restructuring and redefining that takes place as we begin to identify and fill the roles formerly occupied by the deceased defines this third task. When the deceased played a marginal role in our lives we may find this easy; when he or she seemed to finish every sentence we began and was so much a part of our everyday lives that we feel like we have lost a part of ourselves, accomplishing this task may be more difficult. We may also find it simpler to take care of the concrete tasks that were part of the deceased’s contribution to our lives than to fill the emotional roles which can often escape our notice until much later in the grieving process.
Learning how to balance the checkbook after the death of a spouse, for example, may be a lot easier than finding someone who makes us smile. This readjustment usually takes place over time as we recognize the implications of the loss and come to terms with all of the gaps, both real and symbolic, that the death has created in our lives. [1]

REFLECTION:
What does it look like when someone is struggling to adjust to the new reality of the Coronavirus pandemic? What behaviors do we see?

The “Come Aparts” – we are doing fine, when something triggers grief, and we “come apart” temporarily. After a pause, where we are unable to function fully, we can reassemble ourselves and continue on with life.

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
Describe someone stuck at this task, either in your life or in your congregation.
What would you do to help?

SOURCE – Footnotes:
[1]   Tasks of Grief, Maine.gov Suicide Prevention Program.
https://www.maine.gov/suicide/docs/Survivor-Kit/Tasks-Grief.pdf

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NACOS 2.2: Worden’s second task, which is “Experience the pain of the loss.”

NACOS 2.2: Worden’s second task, which is “Experience the pain of the loss.”

Topic #2: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures utilizing William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning. Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

2.2 Using the mental model of Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning, consider how your congregation is coping with the loss of “the way we have always done it before” due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Who – an individual or a group – is an example of what it is like to be struggling with the second task (which is “Experience the pain of the loss”)?

QUOTE: Task Two – To Work through the Pain of Grief
For most of us, the normal feelings of grief are sad, uncomfortable ones. From a variety of life experiences, we are all too familiar with the sadness, anger, hurt, emptiness, and loneliness that accompany loss. A sudden, unexpected death can also carry the pain of regret and unfinished business as well as the guilt that perhaps we could have done something to prevent the death from having happened. Homicides bring with them a great deal of fear and concern about the violence and randomness of life in addition to worries about our own safety. Suicide often burdens survivors with an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the death. Guilt and blame, which frequently take the form of scapegoating as we search for an explanation for the suicide, are often mixed with the initial shock that strikes when learning about the death. Ignoring these feelings does not make them disappear; we simply store them up and are often confronted with them at some future time. Acknowledging and talking about them, however, gives us the opportunity to understand them and put them in perspective. While some of these feelings may resurface from time to time as we are confronted with reminders of the deceased, they do diminish with time. Our ability to work through the feelings of grief can increase our sense of personal mastery over some of the more difficult circumstances we will be faced with in life. [1]

REFLECTION:
What does it look like when someone is enmeshed with experiencing the pain of the Coronavirus pandemic?
What behaviors do we see?

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
Describe someone stuck at this task, either in your life or in your congregation?
What would you do to help?

SOURCE – Footnotes:
[1]   Tasks of Grief, Maine.gov Suicide Prevention Program.
https://www.maine.gov/suicide/docs/Survivor-Kit/Tasks-Grief.pdf

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NACOS 2.1: Worden’s first task, which is to “Accept the Reality of the Loss.”

NACOS 2.1: Worden’s first task, which is to “Accept the Reality of the Loss.”

Topic #2: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures utilizing William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning. Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

2.1 Using the mental model of Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning, consider how your congregation is coping with the loss of “the way we have always done it before” due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Who – an individual or a group – is an example of what it is like to be struggling with the first task (which is to “Accept the Reality of the Loss”)?

QUOTE: Tasks of Grief
The work of William Worden (in Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, 1992) conceptualizes the process of grief as a series of “tasks” that need to be accomplished before mourning is completed. His framework provides a somewhat structured paradigm for organizing the work of grief and healing, which often seem like such amorphous and intangible experiences.

Task One – To Accept the Reality of the Loss
While the initial reaction to the news of a death may be shock and disbelief, these feelings are usually replaced by a dawning recognition of the reality of what has taken place. As difficult as it might be, we are gradually able to acknowledge that the deceased is gone from our lives forever. When there is time to anticipate the loss (e.g., when someone dies from a chronic illness), we may be less likely to get stuck in denial of the reality of the death. Some forms of denial are obvious, like discussing the deceased in present tense or retaining the deceased’s possessions. Other forms can be more subtle, like denial that our relationship with the deceased had any meaning. This latter type is an attempt to mitigate the significance of our loss. When the death has been by suicide, we may also see a denial of that reality, e.g., many schools report the dilemmas caused by parents who refuse to accept the suicide of their child. They insist the death was accidental even though the circumstances suggest otherwise and place the school in the difficult position of not being able to hold honest discussions with students or faculty. [1]

REFLECTION:
What does it look like when people refuse to accept the reality of the Coronavirus pandemic?
What behaviors do we see in your congregation or community of people who “do not accept the reality of” the Coronavirus pandemic?
Why would you think they are stuck? What’s their motivation?

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
Describe a particular person stuck at this task of mourning, either in your community or in your congregation. What would you do to help them?

SOURCE – Footnotes:
[1]   Tasks of Grief, Maine.gov Suicide Prevention Program.
https://www.maine.gov/suicide/docs/Survivor-Kit/Tasks-Grief.pdf

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NACOS 1.3 – Sermon 04/19/20: It’s Only Friday … (remaining nonanxious in the midst of crisis)

NACOS 1.3 – Sermon 04/19/20: It’s Only Friday … (remaining nonanxious in the midst of crisis)

Topic #1: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures after a tragedy.
Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

Addressing patterns of grief, stress and anxiety in congregations after a tragedy through “Worship as Pastoral Care.” Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

Here is the first of three sermons to provide to provide an example of “worship as pastoral care” to help my congregation in crisis.

1.3 – Sermon 04/19/20: It’s Only Friday … (remaining nonanxious in the midst of crisis)
Liturgy & Transcript: https://kinmundychurch.org/2020/04/sermon-04-19-20-easter/
Look within for links to Sermon audio … Sermon slides as a PDF file.

REFLECTION:
What in this sermon was helpful to you?
What was the human need or problem addressed in the message?
What was the solution suggested in the message?

The goal of this learning exercise is not to analyze the content of the sermon but to experience it and consider how you can use experiences from your own personal life or culture to help others respond in times of crisis in a helpful and healthy manner.

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
What resources from your personal experiences, what you have read, or what resources do you have from your culture – stories, traditions, rituals – that would be helpful to your congregation in …

Remaining nonanxious in a crisis?
Dealing with the grief of an undesired change?
Dealing with panic and anxiety in a personal crisis?

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NACOS 1.2 Understanding congregational loss.

NACOS 1.2 Understanding congregational loss.

Topic #1: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures after a tragedy.
Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

QUOTE: Congregations also have losses because congregations function like extended families. Congregations experience changes which are undesirable. Here are some examples of change grief and loss experienced by congregations that I have known:

The beloved, hundred year-old sanctuary is condemned and must be torn down.
It could be a tornado or hurricane, or the church building might burn down.
A trusted congregational leader is discovered to be a child molester of his now adult daughters when they were adolescents.
A controlling pastor stirs up anxiety and 1/3 of attending families leave. 14 years later it happens again with another controlling pastor.
A church staff member may go through a divorce.
A new, young pastor discovers widespread sexual misconduct of a pastor who retired sixteen years previously among more than a dozen young wives of the congregation. Many of the current day, strong female leaders of the congregation speak of that pastor’s tenure as “the best years of their lives and the golden age of the church.”
A major employer may relocate, resulting in widespread poverty. A union may go on strike.
A beloved Church lay leader may suddenly die.
A coronavirus pandemic might happen.

… There are commonalities in how churches cope with a crisis, even though the crises may be different.

How do we provide Pastoral Care to congregations, and groups within congregations, coping with tragedy and crisis? Unless it is a very small church, we can’t do individual therapy with every person.

REFLECTION:
Make a long private list of losses from your congregation’s history and other congregations you have known.

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
From your list of losses, choose one or two which you feel safe sharing with our class in a comment.

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NACOS 1.1 Understanding personal loss.

NACOS 1.1 Understanding personal loss.

Topic #1: Recognizing patterns of grief in congregations and cultures after a tragedy.
Grief is defined as an adaptation to unwanted change.

QUOTE: 
Grief is always a response to loss, but the loss is not always the death of a person.

Consider your own life (and perhaps that of your family genogram). What are the losses, small and large, throughout your family history?

Beyond the death of persons, consider the variety of other losses that you have experienced.

Some diverse examples of loss from my own life:
My Father’s loss of his father when I was 5 and he was 32.
Relocating in 3rd grade to Champaign; I lost friends, self-confidence, and retreated into reading.
My youngest brother, born 1964 with severe infantile cerebral palsy; I was 9, my father was 37.
My family coped with my brother’s handicap by organizing codependently around his care.
My youngest brother, died very suddenly in 1968; I was 13, my father was 41.
The disintegration of our family and my parent’s marriage afterward, but they did not divorce.
The failure of attempting to be a basketball player; height but no skills or coordination.
Pushed to attend college at EIU, again leaving friends and supportive community behind.
Application to attend the Southern Baptist Seminary rejected – “unable to handle the pressure”
Admitted to that Seminary 1 year later after “playing politics” to be admitted. Idealism lost.
Divorce after 23 years of marriage, 3 sons, for a variety of tragic reasons. (Many losses here.)

Make a long private list of losses from your history and your family history.

ASSIGNMENT QUESTION: (in the comments on Facebook)
From your list of losses, choose one or two which you feel safe sharing with our class in a comment.

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NACOS 0.4 PREFACE: The agenda for our Zoom discussion on Sunday, Dec 13, 1-4 pm.

NACOS 0.4 PREFACE
The agenda for our Zoom discussion on Sunday, Dec 13, 1-4 pm
(Followed by closing worship)

David O Kueker – Recognizing Patterns in Congregational Life Regarding Grief, Change, Conflict and COVID. This live session will cover three topics related to how congregations respond to anxiety, tragedy, grief, change and conflict. We’ll spend about an hour on each on 12/13.

Question #1. Ministry with loss:
What losses have you dealt with personally in the COVID pandemic?
What are the losses that your congregation has dealt with?

How have you observed people who are enmeshed in one of the four tasks of mourning?
How could you help them move onward?
(Name a person you know, identify the task of mourning in which they are enmeshed, explain how you would interact with them.)

Question #2. Ministry in “interesting” times:
(Seasons of great adjustments to change.)
What is the level of anxiety in your congregation related to the coronavirus pandemic?
What is the topic of the anxiety? The level of pressure and urgency?
What solution are people pushing to resolve their anxiety?
(Name a person you know, identify the specific anxiety in which they are enmeshed, explain how you would interact with them.)

Question #3. Ministry with systemic resistance to change:
Consider the five adopter categories … how do you see people in these roles interacting in your congregation in regard to the changes forced upon us by the coronavirus pandemic?
Does one category seem to represent the majority of your congregation?
What is your adopter category?
Explain your strategy for pastoral care of the people acting out the majority adopter category in your congregation.

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NACOS 0.3 PREFACE: “Mental Models.”

NACOS 0.3 PREFACE: “Mental Models.”
A word on the educational method … Mental models are tools to understand the raw data of a complex system.

Example:
A satellite map provides a picture of reality. Raw data.

If we overlay that reality with geographic lines of a map, the reality does not change but our understanding is enhanced because we are aware of locations. The raw data is unchanged by the overlay of the geographic mental model.

If we overlay that reality with lines that indicate cold fronts and warm fronts, what is happening in the system, our understanding is enhanced. Mental models help us recognize what is happening because we aware of events. The raw data is unchanged by the overlay of the mental model.

Does this make sense?

Any change, especially one which is forced upon a congregation against their will, is likely to stimulate forces of systemic resistance to change. The Diffusion of Innovations sociological research provides a mental model for understanding how cultural groups accept a change or resist it. We will apply this mental model to congregations that are struggling with change, which often presents as grief or conflict. The mental model provides with an understanding of what is happening within the system.

The second mental model is William Worden’s “four tasks of mourning.” Grief is defined (by me) as “an adjustment to change perceived as a loss.”

In our discussion, we will consider ways to provide pastoral care to a congregation and a community as a cultural group responding to change. These losses can include death, illness, disability, conflict, struggle, tragedy, a change in leadership, innovation and cultural change. Our current grief and loss related to the coronavirus pandemic provides a rich context to understand how to provide pastoral care to congregations dealing with grief and resistance to change.

The intent of our class is to be able to recognize the pattern which is the mental model.
And then to consider how we would minister in that situation.

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