The Valley of Grief: A Lenten Prayer Journey
In his classic work, A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis chronicles his experience of grief at the death of his wife. In it he writes,
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago.”
The valley of grief is one we have become well acquainted with this past year. We have experienced death and loss at an unprecedented level this past year. The familiar patterns and experiences which had given shape and form to our daily life and work have been lost. The familiar faces and places in which we once found solace and comfort have grown distant or have been lost all together. As the Psalmist says, “darkness is my only companion.”
As we enter into the season of Lent, we find ourselves dwelling in the valley of grief, longing to find our way out. But, as C. S. Lewis again describes in A Grief Observed, the way out is elusive.
“Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallowed-in tears. For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?”
We traverse the valley of grief, wandering through its landscape of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and even acceptance; only to crest a hill and find ourselves back in the depths of depression or the fury of anger. We wander the valley searching, looking for a way out. But the only way out is through.
And yet, as we traverse the valley of grief, we are not alone. As the Psalmist again reminds us, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…you are with me.” God walks with us in the valley of grief, and so do others. We are not alone in the valley of grief and the only way out is through.
Over the next five weeks, we will walk together in the valley of grief. We will explore the five stages of grief as defined by Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross–denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–through Scripture, art, music, and the written word. We will wonder together with God about each stage, and give ourselves space to become acquainted with our grief.
Grief is a journey, and the path through is not straight. Give yourself permission to experience your grief as you need to in each moment. Being angry yesterday does not mean you will be bargaining today; you may instead find yourself in a place of acceptance today and deep sadness tomorrow.
We are already wandering in the valley of grief. The time has come to pause, observe, and acquaint ourselves with our surroundings.
Our journey through the valley of grief will be shaped by one of the stages of grief each week.
Week One: Denial
Week Two: Anger
Week Three: Bargaining
Week Four: Depression
Week Five: Acceptance
Each day of those weeks will have a specific practice of prayer and contemplation associated with it–a “divine” way of to be immersed in God’s presence in the midst of the valley of grief. A description of each day’s “divine” practice follows, and will serve as our map as we wander through the valley.
Day One: Lectio Divina (Divine Reading)
Day Two: Fabella Divina (Divine Story)
Day Three: Visio Divina (Divine Seeing)
Day Four: Imago Divina (Divine Picture)
Day Five: Musica Divina (Divine Music)
Day Six: Silentium Divina (Divine Silence)
Day Seven: Worship on CEC’s YouTube Channel
Let our journey begin…
Weekly Images for Visio Divina
Week One: Denial, “Peter’s Denial” by Ralph Willis
Week Two: Anger, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch
Week Three: Bargaining, “Christ in Gethsemane” by Michael D. O’Brien
Week Four: Depression, “Wheat” by Thomas Hart Benton
Week Five: Acceptance, “Look Down That Road” by Charles Pollock
Download the entire Lenten at-home Prayer Journey, The Valley of Grief