“She had no tears this morning. She had wept them all away last night, and now she felt that dry-eyed morning misery, which is worse than the first shock, because it has the future in it as well as the present...There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope.”
-George Eliot, Adam Bede

As a high school Chaplain, I regularly have the challenge and privilege of helping young people navigate their first experience of grief. They might have lost a grandparent or a beloved pet; someone they trusted with their deepest secrets might have proved treacherous; they might have experienced abject failure for the first time in their young lives. It is always earth-shattering for them, leaving them feeling abandoned, exposed and alone.

We are all chaplains now, walking beside students—particularly high school seniors who are experiencing the disorienting gut-punch of disrupted friendships, dashed expectations, and unpredictable futures. We are likely to be grieving and disoriented ourselves. But although we have never experienced this particular dislocation before, most of us have experienced dislocation; most of us have experienced disappointment and loss. From what may feel to us like a fairly negligible height under these circumstances, we can still reach down to hold others up. Unearth your own stories of suffering and being healed, of despairing and recovering hope. Remind yourself of them first, then share them with those who are experiencing their “first great sorrow.” May you both feel lighter and closer for it.  

-- The Rev. Barbara Talcott, St. Mark’s School

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