Written by Sister Jan Kilian, this blog will give an understanding of what it’s like to be Franciscan. Living out the spirit of Saint Francis, we see all God’s creation as brother and sister. We, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, are committed to building relationships and community, ministering wherever there is greatest need, promoting justice and healing Mother Earth’s wounds. My writings will give a glimpse of the compassion, spirituality, interconnectedness and goodness of living Franciscan.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When Sisters Die

I've had several occasions lately to consider the necessity of grieving. I do not do it well, sometimes not at all. When things are painful, I shift into low gear and keep going. Then, one fine morning I wake up feeling very tired and I wonder why.

We had a guest at Clare's Well recently who came for "time out." He shared that his wife is in the end stages of breast cancer. His grief was deep, buried in his effort to "be there for her."
It was the day after he left that I sat with myself and realized I felt very sad for him. The deluge of my tears, however, was out of proportion to my concern for him and his wife. I was startled as I journaled to see I hadn't connected with the fact that a few days earlir I'd visited two Sister friends in Little Falls who are dying. Sister Deb is my classmate and oftimes vacation companion. Sister Mary Ellen has been my mentor and friend from my first days in community over 50 years ago. Two who have been so significant in my own life's journey are about to die. How am I responding to this impending loss? I visited them and more or less "left them in Little Falls."

As Sister Sharon chided during a recent discussion on how we handle the deaths of so many of our Sisters (about ten a year), "We bury them and go back to work!" We are faced death and grief all around. I am as guilty as anyone of swallowing hard and "getting on with life." Once I realized that was exactly what I was doing now, I shared with Sisters Carol and Paula about how sad I feel for the inevitable deaths of Deb and Mary Ellen. I do better not trying to grieve alone. I see how debilitating it is to "stuff' sadness. Thanks to our guest who shared his grief with us and helped me get in touch with my own. I am still very sad, but I know I am and I have a little more bounce in my step, too.


Sr. Ann Marie said...

Jan, your thoughts on grieving truly hit home for me today. We've lost two of our sisters recently--both of who had been our former congregational ministers. Although we grieve the loss of all of our sisters, these two seemed to hit me really hard. I also just got back from visiting my brother who just this week moved to a nursing home. He was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)last April and it has progressed faster than anyone ever imagined. I'm one who has always as you said "stuffed" my grieving down and tried not to show it. I'm learning more and more that I really need the support and love that others--especially our sisters--are so willing to give and sometimes that means letting my grief and my tears show. Guess learning it later in life is better than not learning it at all!

Sister Jan said...

Sr. Ann Marie, I appreciate your comment. Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us. Perhaps we are helping more members of religious communities recognize the impact of the deaths of community members on us emotionally and spiritually. The losses affect the scope of our ministries and we have talked about that; we haven't so much spoken of personal grief. I hold you in my prayer, too. Sr. Jan

Kathleen said...

Clare's Well is the one place I feel safest to sit with my grief. I can't imagine how you move through the grief of losing 10 sisters a year, Jan. Truly, I can't imagine. But I do believe you are surrounded by angels at Clare's Well, and that they will guide your gently along the path. I love you!