When someone leaves a church for whatever reason… they finally decide it’s no longer for them; asked or pressured to leave; lose much of the church due to something like a split; the churches ceases to exist; they move to another area and can’t find another church to settle in; etc… they will often experience grief.
But the grief is on two levels:
- The first level is grieving the loss of the church. Especially if church has been a huge part of their lives for years. Church often permeated much of their lives, so when they leave it, it leaves a huge hole. I compare it to a senior who retires from work. The grief, the trauma that many retirees feel is acute… sometimes so acute that many rapidly decline in their health, get depressed and even die. Even though they might be happy to not have to work, work was such a huge part of their lives that they can’t make the adjustment. It’s like that for many who leave a or the church.
- The second level of grief is the loss of all the relationships. The church isn’t just the organization, but a conglomerate of countless networks of relationships, some of them intimate. Suddenly, all these relationships vaporize. I compare this to someone losing their whole village. The church provided a kind of gathering place, so that they’ve lost the one guaranteed means of gaining, nurturing and maintaining relationships. It’s all gone all at once. Eradicated. Sure, some of it was their own doing, but the grief cannot be dismissed just because of this.
It’s critical that you not deny yourself this grief or underestimate its effects. The trauma such people experience is often serious.
I know what I’m talking about. I’ve experienced this grief more than once. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever really get over it. The effects of grief linger still.
Do you know what I mean?