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Previous Message From Virtual Church

This message is dedicated to the many widows I have known whose lives have touched and enriched my life and spirit.

The Circle

No one knows how the circle got started. No one knows anything about the circle's history. Perhaps no one wants to know anything about the circle because of who makes up the circle. There is no initiation of any kind to become a circle member. The reason there is no initiation is because to be a member of the circle you have to be a widow. Men don't join the circle because men don't bond to each other in grief the same way women bond. In addition, there are few men to join because it seems the men most often die first. Women have this bond between each other, especially women who become widows, men do not have. Every Thursday, the circle meets somewhere. Most of the time the circle meets at church. There are times when there are only three or four women in the circle. Other times there can be twelve or thirteen women. Being a church group you would think the circle would pray a lot but the circle is not a prayer group. The circle does not have a name. When a woman is newly widowed, she isn't exactly invited to join. Usually, someone from the circle shows up on the first Thursday after the funeral and knocks on the new widow's door. When the new widow opens the door, the circle member standing outside says, "I came pick you up so you can go with me to the circle. It isn't something you have to do but it is something you have to do." No one ever refuses to go to the first meeting. No one ever taken to the first meeting ever misses another meeting except for reasons of illness, incapacity, or being out of town.

The circle is not a support group. The women don't talk about grief or loss. Instead they just talk about anything and everything else. Because of this, sometimes you wouldn't know what it takes to be a member. After a mourning period, a new member begins to come back to life. The group has no leader, president, or officers. The group never has an agenda or a formal meeting structure. What keeps the group going is hard to say other than maybe the pain of being a widow and the understanding, support, and love the members show each other instill bonds between the members. When a new widow is brought into the group, things are always very subdued for awhile. Things are always subdued in the circle until the new member learns to start living again. Although no one would ever say the purpose of the group is to help the members live again, that is what happens because in the circle, widows find new life. If the group has had no new members for awhile, activities pick up and the members go more places and do more things. They take bus trips, go to movies, eat at restaurants, play games, go shopping together, talk about family, or anything else that is on their mind except being a widow.

For these women, they don't talk about what has happened to them. Instead of talking about being a widow, they push ahead to live again and they learn to breathe again. If a woman has to talk about how bad things are for her, a couple of the group members come to her home for a little private get together. The women would never say the group changed their lives but that is what the circle does. There is among the circle members a kind of unwritten and unspoken code about grief. The unwritten and unspoken code says that grief is to be carried without complaint. Initially, for some of the women, the code is more of a burden then the grief. However, as the initial shock of losing a husband begins to wear off and a new way of living is established, the burden of not talking about the grief becomes less of a burden.

The circle brings a widow along gradually after she first becomes a member. The circle members are kind and sympathetic without pandering or being demeaning. The circle members are supportive without letting a new member fall into self-pity and self-absorption. When a new member has low points, older members go to the new member at home. There is always an adjustment period. If a new member does not eventually "snap out of it" as members call grief, the new member gets a few kind words of encouragement and if kind words don't work, a soft lecture. No one has ever been excluded from the group. No matter how difficult a time a circle member might have, the group does not kick any one out. The more difficult time a new widow has in adjusting, the harder the members of the circle work to help her learn to help herself and learn to build a strong normal life.

If someone in the group dies, which happens often because the women are usually older, no one in the circle mourns. When someone from the group dies, the group just keeps going on as normal with meetings every Thursday. Although members of the circle who die are missed terribly, the circle does not openly mourn the loss of a member who dies. The reason members of the circle who die are not mourned is because of what the circle members learn about life and death. The members learn the purpose of the circle is to help them live life rather than unduly mourn death. The circle members learn that grief and loss are temporary obstacles that are to eventually be overcome.

Living life, especially when life has been lost, is the hardest lesson to learn. The circle has a party every month. At these parties, you would not know the women are widows because they usually do not act like widows. At these parties, the women act like single women instead of grieving widows because they have learned to live again. Some women in the circle learn to live again fairly quickly, while other women in the circle take a long time to learn. Only a few women in the circle never learn to live again and these few women stay in their grief until they die.

When a woman in the circle begins to have a romantic interest in a man, she says nothing about it. When a woman in the circle remarries, she isn't in the circle any more. Occasionally, a woman's second husband dies, and the woman is brought back into the circle in the same way as before with the same unwritten code.

The women in the circle are friends. The women take a risk at being friends because they know someday they could lose each other. They send each other cards on the holidays and keep tabs on each other by phone between meetings. If a circle member has a problem or issue then the other members "gang up" on the member and give help and support with laughter, jokes, and an understanding of what it is like to be a widow. In ways only widows understand, the circle lets you grieve but not grieve very much because you are supposed to live life up rather than live life down. What makes the circle work is they love each other and they settle for nothing less than life lived to the max regardless of the circumstances.

John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, `I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " (NIV)

This story appeared as the August, 2003 virtual church message at Shepherd's Care Ministries virtual church site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Entire contents copyright © 1999 - 2010 by Rev. Patrick Kelly, All rights reserved.
All content is presented on behalf of Shepherd’s Care Ministries. Shepherd's Care Ministries reserves no right or claim upon content.

Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018