God's Politics

God's Politics

Mirabai Starr: God in the Midst of Grief

While we’re still reeling from the news of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, we offer this excerpted reflection from the November 2004 issue of Sojourners magazine:

Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, my 14-year-old daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car accident. In that moment, the global grief I had been witnessing at a distance became intensely personal for me. I shared the pain of every mother everywhere—American, Afghani, Iraqi—as she struggled to bear the unbearable.


When my daughter died, she was at the beginning of her blossoming, filled with indignation against injustice, hunger for justice, and the early flames of spiritual love. I had believed that Jenny would grow up to consciously help alleviate the suffering in this world. The loss of such potential, coupled with the primal agony of missing her, threatened to destroy me.

But there was another reality just beyond the edges of my anguish. A palpable sense of holiness began to pervade the emptiness carved by my shattering. As my family and community rallied to support me in those first hours and days of my loss, filling the air with their prayers, tears, and singing, I noticed a radiance wash over my heart and the hearts of my circle of support. God was with us. And Jenny was with God. The exaltation accompanying this phenomenon confused me. The most terrible thing imaginable had happened and, while my suffering was acute, I was also being soothed and lifted by this ineffable holy joy.


For a year or more, all I could do was tentatively face the fire of my feelings, offering quiet prayers for peace on the planet and in the hearts of all who were grieving. I sat amid the wreckage of my own heart, allowing the broken fragments to re-form according to the inscrutable timetable of the Divine, relinquishing any last illusions that I had control of anything in this life.

Eventually, like so many victims of tragedy, I turned my attention to service. This was the only path that made any sense. The ordinary concerns of daily life had dissolved in the inferno of my loss. Struck by the rarified awareness that had begun to grow in me, I became intensely interested in those whose own losses had acted as a catalyst for spiritual transformation in their lives.


+ Read the entire article

Mirabai Starr, the author of translations of Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross and The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, was a certified grief counselor and an adjunct professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of New Mexico, Taos, when this article appeared.

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posted April 17, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Not related or empathic but I hate the media made up term “closure”, not possible. Like riding out a hurricane, saddle up a 2X4 and stay on for 3 seconds before it hits an immoveable object.

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posted April 17, 2007 at 7:50 pm

I agree w/ Butch. There are just some things that one should never forget. I am sorry for your loss. It takes a great deal of courage to share this most painful thing. Sharing grief is one of the most blessed and beautiful gifts one can give. Thank you for sharing that w/ us. Know that you do not grieve alone. There are people that weep for you all over the world. p

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Carl Copas

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:45 pm

Mirabai, thank you for a fine article and thanks to Sojo for reprinting it.I am currently grieving over a very close friend who a few days ago finally lost a long bout with a rare liver disease. Mirabai’s counsel about turning attention to service is very timely for me personally. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways and truly takes care of us if we ask in humility.

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posted April 17, 2007 at 10:35 pm

We turn our hearts to the survivors of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, and can only offer prayers….words seem so empty. My community and my police department were on the front lines of Columbine, and the tremors were fetl afresh yesterday. I pray that God will comfort the grieving, forgive the perpetrator, and unite survivors throughout this country in a call for meaningful action against violence. Our “culture” glorifies violence as a way to solve all our earthly problems. Remember, in the aftermath of Columbine, that Hollywood was going to “reexamine” their portrayal of violence, the media were going to “reexamine” how violent events were covered, and our leadership were going to “take meaningful action” to make our schools and communities safe. Reality check-Hollywood continues to relish in violence on the screen as a way of fattening the bottom line; mainstream media continue to flock to portray these events in the most gruesome terms, including talking heads who extrapolate nonsense out of tragedy and engage in never-ending blame games; and our political leadership, mouthing words of comfort, have gutted from our national budgets funding to provide so many programs which could lessen the daily violence in our country, replacing them with new and more efficient ways of slaughtering human beings in the name of “national security’ and the “War on Terror.” What happened at Virginia Tech will happen again, and the cycle will be repeated…already there is speculation in the media about “the next Blacksburg.” When do we stand up and cry “Enough!” God weeps for our children.

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posted April 18, 2007 at 1:17 am

Our “culture” glorifies violence as a way to solve all our earthly problems.” Doug Interesting study links more violent behavior when people are exposed to images of an angry deity.

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Amazon Creek

posted April 18, 2007 at 7:05 am

Me-thinks that’s the place you’ve got to go in the end. I mean…there are events and things that happen – that who-on-earth can make sense of? They happen…they just happen. I don’t think they can be understood this side of heaven. We just pretend to understand them. All you can do is let it “zoom out” your horizon and broaden your perspective on life. And realize that NONE of us can count on anything more than today. And so seize it, and max today out. And perhaps that’s the effect that God intended things like this to have. To realize how inadequate our understanding is to comprehend. To make us seek to “redeem the time for the days are evil”.

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