Unaddressed Grief

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

                                                Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Unaddressed grief, loss or disappointment can be hidden behind words people say as well as how they participate (or don’t) in community life. Under the surface of someone’s negativity, fear or resistance to change, might be a honest hurt or disappointment that has never had the space to be heard or acknowledged. Do you recognise any of these statements?

Unaddressed Grief


  • Have you ever encountered resistance to change, objections to new projects or strong protective behaviours in your faith community?
  • How might these behaviours be an expression of unaddressed grief, loss or disappointment?
  • Is grief a necessary part of community life?
  • Why is grief often hidden?
  • In what ways have you seen people express their grief directly in groups, teams or in public? How is this different to more private expressions of grief?
  • What role does your faith play in a) the way you experience grief and b) the way you understand grief?
  • What are some effective ways to support people to identify, share and process their grief? How can this happen not just for individuals but whole groups of people?
  • How do we keep making space for grief, knowing there will always be more disappointments or frustrations ahead?

Wisdom from the pews

“Almost everyone carries some degree of grief related to change, even in contexts where there remains vibrant ongoing activity and life. Innovation naturally involves cycles of hope, risk, failure and loss. ”

“For many participants, the conversation we held was the first time they felt they had a place where this grief could be aired and acknowledged. Creating a safe, confidential space to talk about disappointments, hopes lost, failures and pain is important.”

“ It can also be valuable to create collective experiences where griefs can be acknowledged and processed together. Unspoken and unprocessed grief can railroad new ministries or projects. People may react negatively to taking risks, not based on the merit or value of an idea, but simply because they haven’t recovered from a previous failure. ”

“Similarly, allowing each other to stay in our grief, holding onto pain from experiences 5, 10 and 20 years ago at the cost of a positive future isn’t a healthy way forward. Where possible, if a project can normalise failure, and acknowledge openly that this is part of the experience of pioneering something new it will enable individuals to process grief more openly and readily. This is particularly relevant for those educating and forming potential innovators.”

“ How have we equipped people to deal with failure? It may be worth accessing external supports to provide safe space for difficult conversations, especially if a project closes. Individuals can be jettisoned when formal structures such as mission plans, or employment arrangements or building access change. However these individuals may still need to be heard and acknowledged by the church, which they were part of for a time. ”

Going deeper

Service of lament

The following document is the full order of service, for a “Lament” held in Victoria in 2013 by a collective of Uniting Churches. It’s focus is on Asylum Seekers.

https://Service of Lament with Asylum Seekers

This second service of similar style, took place in Pitt St in 2014:

Pitt St Uniting Service of Lament


Researcher Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathise, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.