There are many who are grieving tonight. Pastor Fred Winters of 1st Baptist Maryville Church in Maryville, Il was shot to death this morning as he preached to his congregation. My church, Metro Community Church in Edwardsville, hosted Maryville’s evening service turned prayer service. The place was packed. The parking lot overflowing into the surrounding fields.
Two of the Maryville pastors honored the life of Pastor Fred, seeking also to instill hope in the future for this wounded church and community. And I believe God will be close to the brokenhearted. He will bind up their wounds. But as the days go by, I think it would be helpful for these grieving parishioners to understand how their grief may play out in the days to come.
First of all, grief expert, Elisabeth Kubler Ross, has identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depresssion and acceptance. There are some experts who think there are additional stages, but these seem to be the basic stages that are felt and experienced. And although the first two stages seem to almost always occur first and run directly into one another, the remaining stages are more fluid. In other words, you may have progressed from denial to anger to bargaining when some event or memory can trigger moving backwards into anger once again. This can happen at any stage, as stages may be repeatedly re-experienced before progressing fully to acceptance. It would be helpful to recognize that the roller coaster of emotions you’ll be experiencing in the months and even years to come are a normal part of grieving.
The time-table for grief varies from person to person, but one thing is a constant–the person who seeks support during this time from those who are skilled in the grief process invariably progress more quickly and successfully. I truly hope that those who are grieving over this tragedy will not do it alone, but enlist the help of friends and professionals.
Finally, as mentioned before, grief is like riding on a crazy and unpredictable roller coaster. One minute you will be driving to work and you’ll hear a song on the radio that will remind you of your dear pastor or you’ll pass a car that looks like his, or you’ll drive by the place where you ate lunch with him or perhaps you won’t know exactly what it is at all that’s triggering a surge of emotion but nevertheless you’ll feel an avalanche of feelings tumbling down on you. Allow yourself to express this emotion, and if you can, do so just as it comes to you. In fact, the more you give yourself permission to acknowledge your pain, the more you will be able to move through the stages of grief.
Most of all, my prayers and thoughts are with Cindy, Fred’s wife, and his daughters, as well as, with the members of his church. I pray that God would carry them through this tragedy, whispering in their ears of His great love that I know He has for them.