Guest Post by Anne Morelli
I haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting Anne Morelli in person, but we’ve connected in a number of places online. And every one of her posts is encouraging and authentic. She has a way of sharing quiet, heartfelt wisdom. She recently released an intriguing book about grief called, When Grief Descends: Suffering, Consolation, and The Book of Job (see details below). I invited her to share a little bit about her book and her thoughts here. Will you please help me welcome Anne to this little corner of the internet?
In an incredibly short period, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused us to face a breadth and depth of change that has thrown us off-kilter. The losses that are associated with every change have forced us to walk on unfamiliar paths, through uncharted territory. Most of us are just trying to find our next step, process everything that has happened, and do what we can to console others while still maintaining appropriate social distancing.
We are feeling besieged and exhausted as we have relinquished our familiar routines and activities, faced the loss of some personal freedoms, and learned how to navigate all that is unfolding. We have had to deal with not being able to attend church, social gatherings, or being in our physical workplaces. Many have lost their jobs and their income.
We have lost opportunities to travel, eat in restaurants, socialize, and even hug one another. Our sense of safety and certainty about how life should unfold has been shaken. We might wonder about where God is in our adversity and why he would allow us to suffer on such a scale.
As a result, we are struggling with how to cope in a world that seems to have turned upside down, and inside out. Few of us were prepared to face this magnitude of change.
My recently released book, When Grief Descends: Suffering, Consolation, and The Book of Job, deals with these very issues. Drawing on the biblical Book of Job, the book builds a framework for understanding loss and grief, addresses healthier ways to process our sorrow, and offers suggestions about providing consolation to others.
As I wrote the book, I spent considerable time with Job and his companions. Stepping into his narrative of loss and grief, I quickly found myself sitting with Job on the ash heap outside of the city gates. I was a quiet witness as he mourned the incomprehensible loss of his ten children, his vast estate, his job, his health, his reputation, purpose, social connections, and the future as he had envisioned it.
My heart ached as Job lamented and searched for God in his misery. As I eavesdropped on his conversations with his companions, I followed their attempts to offer consolation and as they all struggled to find answers for Job’s adversity.
Although such loss and suffering are universal, timeless, cross-cultural human experiences, it is also true that there is no one set framework or pathway through our sadness. Grief is not a complete, linear process. It is complex.
It will cycle around, loop back and forth. We can feel one emotion one moment and feel something quite different the next moment. Grief can be lonely and isolating. And because grief work is grinding work, it is common to feel emotions such as confusion, weariness, anger, anxiety, or despair. We can feel lost or uncertain about how we are going to deal with all that we are facing and how we might provide healing consolation to others who are also mourning.
Job’s narrative informs us about how, and how not to come alongside someone who is grieving. We learn that being physically present is crucial. We discover how silence has the power to carve out the sacred, grace-filled spaces that help a sufferer to feel connected, comforted, and in control of their healing.
Listening offers the necessary room for a sufferer to question, weep, and lament, without judgement or censure. We learn that consolation is not about pushing our viewpoints, trying to control the conversation, or giving advice. But rather, it is about the timely and sensitive sharing of short observations, prayer, and reading Scripture.
God’s speeches in the epilogue offer us a glimpse of his character and his utter delight in creating and managing every aspect of his creation. His grandeur, sovereignty, power, and enduring love provide me immeasurable reassurance in my suffering experiences. For this image of God has gifted me with a certainty that while God is always present in my circumstances, he is also transcendent and utterly above me. And while I may never fully understand God and all the reasons for our trials, this mystery has become manageable for me, because knowing God is answer enough.
What about you? In your trials and suffering what has been your experience of God? How have your experiences refined or changed how you see him and his role in your suffering?
***Scroll down a bit to learn more about Anne’s fascinating book.
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When Grief Descends invites the reader to sit alongside Anne, Job, and the “miserable comforters” on the ash heap outside the ancient city gates. To also witness their conversations with God and with each other, and learn how to,
- navigate loss and process grief,
- become a more consoling comforter
- acquire the communication skills and practical strategies essential in providing consolation,
- and build an understanding of suffering through the lens of the Christian faith.
This book is recommended for anyone seeking to learn about loss and grief. It is ideal for either individual study or group study because at some reflection questions for journaling or discussion have been provided at the end of every chapter, and in the appendices at the end of the book application exercises have been included.
It is possible to purchase When Grief Descends: Suffering, Consolation, and The Book of Job through either Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Bio: Anne Mackie Morelli, BPE, MA, RCC, is a former Canadian National Track and Field Champion, Olympian, educator, clinical counsellor, and pastor, who is now spending her time writing and speaking. She is a woman of faith who has been profoundly impacted by God’s radical love and grace. Anne is currently enrolled in the Seminary at Trinity Western University, in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, where she is completing a Masters’ Degree in Christian Studies and Leadership. Her first solo book, When Grief Descends: Suffering, Consolation, and The Book of Job, became an international bestseller when it was first published in June 2020 by As You Wish Publishers. Anne and her husband have been married for 43 years. They have three grown sons, now all married, and four grandsons. Anne is passionate about empowering others to use their talents, strengths, and leadership abilities for the greater good and to effect positive change in their families, communities, and the world around them. She believes that with encouragement and support every individual has the capacity to contribute and to lead wherever God has placed them. Follow or contact Anne through:
- her website, Anne Mackie Morelli, Writer https://www.annemackiemorelli.com,
- through Twitter at https://twitter.com/EAnneMorelli,
- or Facebook at Anne Mackie Morelli, Writer
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You’re Very Welcome Jeanne!! God Bless You and Your Family and Friends!!
Love Always, YSIC \o/
Thank you so much for stopping by, Kristi Ann!
I look forward to reading Anne’s book, as sorrow and suffering are our companions off and on for much of our lives. I appreciate your conclusion, Anne, that God is transcendent and we may not have all the answers we seek, yet knowing God Himself is our consolation. God bless you and your ministry!
Melissa, I totally agree with your comment that sorrow and suffering are our constant companions throughout our life-time, for even when it is not our own suffering there is suffering occurring all around us. But thankfully as you also write, God is our consolation. So when we are confused, wounded, uncertain, and struggling we can rest in the assurance God is present and he will sustain us. Thanks for your encouragement, Melissa. Blessing to you and your ministry.
Sorry for the delayed response, Melissa. You’re right. Sorrow and suffering are our companions off and on through our lives. There is comfort in knowing our Father knows all the answers and that He is always near us to comfort. Thank you so much for stopping by!
This sounds like an amazing book, Anne. Thank you for hosting Anne here today, Jeanne. I am always interested in learning more about grief and loss.
Mary, it is my pleasure to host Anne. And I’m truly grateful you stopped by!
Mary, thanks for your encouraging comments. I have been delighted to be connected with Jeanne’s friends and followers and am grateful for the interest and comments about the book. Blessings.
Sound like a wonderful resource for everyone to read especially during these days of pandemic. It is so important for each of us to learn to embrace silence as we sit with others in their grief. Too often, we throw out useless words that hurt instead of help just like Job’s friends. Thanks for sharing
Yvonne, I suspect many in our culture are intimidated by silence, afraid of it, even. But sometimes, silence is the best minister when we sit or walk alongside someone who is grieving. Thank you so much for stopping by!
Yvonne, thank you for commenting. I totally agree that unless we are careful, our comments can end up wounding and complicating someone’s grief, rather than providing solace and healing. Silence and presence carve out the safe places for the sufferer to grieve and to determine the pace and direction of their healing.
Having experienced a significant loss before the pandemic, COVID-19 has often exacerbated my grief. And I can so attest to the truth of your words:
“Grief is not a complete, linear process. It is complex. It will cycle around, loop back and forth. We can feel one emotion one moment and feel something quite different the next moment.”
Grateful for the comfort and assurance that comes from God’s Word and God’s Spirit!
Ava, I’m so sorry you suffered such a loss before COVID-19. I can only imagine how COVID-19 must have magnified it. Thank you for your wisdom shared here and for your visit!
Ava, I am so sorry to hear that you experienced a significant loss before you had to deal with all the additional losses associated with the Covid-19 virus. I really appreciate your comment about how losses can accumulate and as losses add up it makes our grief more complex and compounded. I pray that you continue to find comfort and assurance from God’s presence and his word.
The Book of Job is a hard book, but there is so much wisdom in it. I think it is beautiful and poignant. I am really looking forward to reading Anne’s book!
Jessica, you’re right. The book of Job is hard. I agree with your words on it. I’m looking forward to reading Anne’s book too. 🙂
I totally agree with you Jessica that the Book of Job is a complex and challenging book to read. And yet, it is a rich resource with some beautiful imagery. It can help us to understand suffering through the lens of the Christian faith and can help guide us as we navigate our loss and grief. Thank you for your interest in my book and for commenting.
Maybe it’s a sense of loss,
or maybe, yeah, it’s grief,
but I can say that cancer’s cost
has gone beyond belief.
I’m so far from what I was,
have dropped so bloody low;
this beasting never takes a pause,
and does not even slow.
But what the hell, I’ll still go on,
for giving up’s a crime;
perhaps my days are used and gone,
perhaps there’s little time,
but if today has no tomorrow,
I will not spend its grace in sorrow.
Andrew, this poem is beautiful. Your heart shines through. You are continually in my prayers, my friend.
This line: “but if today has no tomorrow,
I will not spend its grace in sorrow.”
This line captured me.
Andrew, thanks for sharing your poem and thoughts. it sounds like you have been walking through adversity and there have been some really hard challenges. Yet, it also sounds like you will continue to fight through those challenges. I pray you find strength and healing and that you feel God’s presence throughout.
I appreciate your words here. Grief certainly isn’t a linear process. We don’t walk steadily upward out of the pit of grief. It is SO complex, but it has been in my grief and suffering that I have felt and experienced God’s profound and inexplicable comfort and love. It has certainly taken my relationship with Him to a much deeper level. Jeanne, thanks for sharing Anne with us!
Bev, thank you for sharing your insights and experiences relating to grief. It does seem like it’s in those most painful time, the seasons when we’re most vulnerable, that God takes our relationship with Him deeper. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here, friend.
Bev, I am so thankful that as you have had to walk through grief and suffering that you felt and experienced God’s comfort and presence. That is such a blessing. For sometimes, as we see in Job’s narrative that God can often seem distant and silent. Job struggled with God’s silence. But when God appeared in the epilogue and spoke, it became clear that God had been present all along. What a great encouragement it is to us to know that God is always close by and knows all about our suffering. I totally agree that if we remain open to learning and trusting God in our suffering, the suffering will transform us and our relationship with God will grow stronger. Thanks for commenting.
Anne and Jeanne, when I lost my parents last year, one thing I wasn’t prepared for was how utterly exhausting grief is. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones this year and are having to navigate all those intense feelings in the middle of Covid-19. Your book sounds like a wonderful resource, Anne, and so incredibly timely.
Lois, I so appreciate your insights from the trenches. I’ve thought a lot about how difficult it must be this year for those who have loved ones in the hospital or those who have lost loved ones. Thanks for sharing your heart here.
Lois, thank you for commenting. I totally agree that grief is exhausting emotionally and physically. And I I also agree that most of us are not prepared for this reaction to grief and many other reactions we will experience. In fact, I have noticed as we are all walking through the Covid-19 crisis that so many people are expressing how exhausted they are. I personally think that this is because the virus has forced us all to walk through major loss – the loss of things like our routines, regular activities, sense of safety, social connections and hugs, and many have lost jobs and income and people they love – and we are grieving. And as we process our grief over all these losses, one of our reactions is bound to be exhaustion. Thanks again for your comments.
Thanks for introducing us to Anne, Jeanne. What a beautiful heartfelt post.
My husband’s uncle recently died and we attended his funeral. He was part of a family that showed a lot of physical affection. It was difficult to express consolation under these circumstances. Thank you for this wonderful resource.
Laurie, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s uncle’s passing. I’m glad you were able to attend the funeral. I’ve learned that different families grieve differently, based on their “DNA,” like physical affection. I appreciate you stopping by!
Laurie, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments. You make a really valid point about how each family and individual grieves in their own unique way. It can be challenging to find appropriate ways to offer consolation and navigate the grieving, but as I discuss in my book there are things we can learn that can help and which can profoundly support and console the suffering. Thanks for commenting.
Grief can affect everyone in different ways. Expressing our emotions in healthy ways is key to the journey.
Agreed, Mimi. Grief affects each person individually. I love your insight here. Thank you for sharing your insights.
Mimi, walking through grief is a universal human experience, yet we all walk through it in unique ways. Expressing our emotions and lamenting is one key to processing our grief in healthy ways. Thanks for commenting.
Looks like a fabulous resource. And this time certainly has us needing exactly that.
I couldn’t agree more, Nancy!
Thank you Nancy. Yes, the timing of the book’s release has certainly been providential.
Thank you for your gentle companionship and guidance through the grieving process. This is a seemingly endless up and down roller coaster, with no 1-2-3 steps, a whirlwind of emotions that threatens to completely undo us.
As we look back on our journey through the darkness, we realize, yet again, that God never left our side. Not for one moment.
Glimpses of light dawn ahead.
Linda, you beautifully capture the nature of grief with your metaphors of a roller coaster and a whirlwind. It is such a complicated, complex process, and while suffering and loss is a universal experience, the path of grieving that we each walk will be unique. I also agree with your comment that there are times or moments that we do not feel God’s presence in our suffering. Yet, we see in the epilogue of the Book of Job that when God speaks to Job and his companions he knows everything they talked about and repeats it. This reveals to us that though God may seem quiet and distant in our suffering, he is there, sitting with us on the ash heaps of our lives. Thanks for commenting.
Linda, I suspect you have seen intimately how God has been with you during your own time of grieving. Thank you for sharing your words here.
Anne, I loved reading your thoughts. Like so many of us, I, too, have had to deal with life-shaping grief. I absolutely love what you had written: “Listening offers the necessary room for a sufferer to question, weep, and lament, without judgment or censure.” SOO true! Sometimes the grief-stricken person just needs to be heard and not fixed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today.
Lisa, thanks for your encouraging comments. Yes, It is a profound gift to just be physically present and sit quietly with someone when they are suffering. We so often think that we are responsible to fill the quiet spaces with talking, offering solutions, giving advice. Yet, allowing sufferers to walk through their grief with the freedom and grace to lament, weep, question without judgement is a sacred and healing offering.
Lisa, I love your reminder that often, a person navigating grief needs simply to be heard.
I’m currently reading Anne’s book. During this time of loss and grieving, it has been a particular encouragement. Anne is a superb writer, and from the first page the reader feels safe in her gentle hands as we enter the journey through loss alongside Job.
Melinda, I so appreciate your kind comments and your interest in my book. I pray that you continue to find encouragement in the book and learn some new insights about loss and grief and the theology of suffering that will help guide you through the ups and downs of our earthly life. Blessings dear friend.
I love your description of the reader feeling safe in Anne’s hands as she explores the journey through loss alongside Job. Thank you for stopping by, Melinda!
Thanks Anne and Jeanne. I’m currently reading the book and appreciate lessons from Job and Anne’s words on grief, comfort and endurance during trials. Love this thought from this piece: “We discover how silence has the power to carve out the sacred, grace-filled spaces that help a sufferer to feel connected, comforted, and in control of their healing.”
Thanks Karen for your encouraging words and for reading the book. I deeply appreciate your interest and support. Yes, a companionable, gentle, grace-filled and patient silence has the profound capacity to communicate care, love, and respect to a sufferer. We so often feel the need to talk and fill the quiet spaces with chatter. Yet, sitting in silence with someone who is suffering is a powerful way to offer consolation.
Karen, silence can be powerful, can’t it? Thank you for stopping by and sharing your words.
Thank you for sharing this resource on grief! It is sure to be helpful for so many.
Thanks for your kind words, Adrienne. It’s my hope that this will indeed be a helpful resource for many! I appreciate your visit!
Thank you Adrienne for commenting and for being so encouraging about the post and my book. I do pray the book will be a helpful resources for individuals and groups that desire to learn more about loss and grief and suffering through the lens of our Christian faith.
Especially like your words: Anne is passionate about empowering others to use their talents, strengths, and leadership abilities for the greater good and to effect positive change in their families, communities, and the world around them.
She believes that with encouragement and support every individual has the capacity to contribute and to lead wherever God has placed them.
Mom, I hope we can all live into those words. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!