Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren, was so overwhelmed by the thousands of supportive responses to her Facebook post under the headline, "Don't Tell Grievers to 'Move On,'" that she took nearly two weeks before responding.
"Grief is a long, arduous, slow process and it deserves to be respected and supported, not minimized and condemned," Kay Warren said in part of her Facebook message posted Thursday.
The Saddleback Church founders are approaching the one year anniversary of their son's death approached. Matthew Warren died at the age of 27 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 5, 2013. The young Warren had "lived his entire life with mental illness," Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, said last year.
Kay Warren reported that 3.2 million have viewed her original Facebook post and more than 10,000 have written back. In her follow-up post, Kay said the feedback she received comforted her and confirmed that grieving is subjective. Now, she walks through life differently and admitted she gets anxious about the future.
"I've started searching the Bible for verses that can encourage me to believe that my life isn't ruined by our tragedy," she wrote. "I don't have all the answers, but I'm spending a lot of time meditating on the book of Ezekiel."
The Warrens are hosting a conference on "Mental Health and the Church" Friday in an effort to further the discussion about mental illness.
Below is Kay Warren's "Don't Tell Me to Move On" follow-up Facebook post:
I've wanted so badly to respond to the millions of you (3.2 million have seen it and more than 10,000 have written back) who have shared this post, forwarded it, re-posted it, printed it and handed it out to others, and written exquisitely kind and tender words of empathy to me and my family. However, I've simply been astonished by the volume of response and have been hesitant to interrupt the beauty of what was happening by posting something else. I don't know how to interpret the volume of response other than to say it confirms what I suspected: Grief is a long, arduous, slow process and it deserves to be respected and supported, not minimized and condemned. Your responses both comfort me tremendously – clearly, I'm not alone - and break my heart; so many of you have said, "This is my story too; you've put into words what I feel." You've told me about your sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, best friends, grandparents, cousins, neighbors and co-workers and how their deaths created such a well of pain and grief in your hearts; how the grief remains fresh and raw, and how much you wish "comforters" had been more sensitive to your grief. I can't even begin to tell you what a privilege it is to "hold" your grief….I feel as though I've been given a sacred trust and I'm honored. I ache for your losses and send you my deepest compassion and prayers for God's gentle touch to soothe, mend and heal your hearts.
The thousands of responses have impacted me. I'm walking through life differently. Instead of plowing through the grocery store as fast as I can, I now walk the aisles praying for those who pass by me intent on their shopping. I can't help but wonder what invisible sorrow accompanies them; who are they grieving for? Who are they desperately missing? I get fanciful and wonder what if we all wore armbands that way people do occasionally on sports teams – but what if these armbands were colored to match a grief. Blue for a baby or child who died. Yellow for a spouse. Green for a loved one lost through suicide. Red for a sibling. Purple for a best friend. I wonder if we wouldn't all be wearing an armband of one color or the other….it would make it so much easier! We wouldn't have to wonder whether or not someone was mourning – it would be right there on their arm for all to see – and I wonder if it wouldn't make us all much more patient and considerate of each other because we wouldn't be able to ignore the pain so plainly visible. Of course that isn't ever going to happen, but its food for thought.
Another thought I've been contemplating the past two weeks is the way so many of you expressed the ways that your loss has negatively affected your life….how nothing has been the same…..how you're not at all the same person you used to be…..how challenging it is to continue in daily life. Since I feel the same way at the one-year mark (April 5), I can't help but get a little anxious about the future. I've started searching the Bible for verses that can encourage me to believe that my life isn't ruined by our tragedy. I don't have all the answers, but I'm spending a lot of time meditating on the book of Ezekiel. The Israelites were taken captive in Babylonia – the land was laid waste, their cities were decimated and plundered, the inhabitants enslaved. But in Ez. 36, God promises to make the land rich and productive again, to free the people, and to rebuild all that was demolished and ruined.
Yes, God, please. Please rebuild the "ruins" in our lives. Even though we often feel helpless in the ruins, YOU are not helpless among our ruins. Please bring freedom, productivity, and restoration once again. Show us how to LIVE even though some of those dearest to us are no longer here. We want to flourish again. Please.
The conference can be viewed via webcast at MentalHealthandtheChurch.com.