Dr. Jeanne Robertson, PhD, LPC, LMFT
Dr. Jeanne is the Director of St. Paul's Center for Counseling & Education. Learn more about the Center here.
In a recent post, The Rev. Joanna Seibert talks about one of my favorite books, C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. She says it’s his “classic study of the difference between living in heaven and living in hell. In hell, people become increasingly isolated and separated from each other until they lose all communication.” Those in hell have no community.
You probably know John Donne’s famous line “No man [woman] is an island, entire of itself; every man [woman] is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” That continent might be for you: humanity, family or the body of Christ -- your faith community. Whatever it is for us, it is much greater than just ourselves and if we become disconnected, we become isolated, an island, separate. Hell?
Those of you who know me are aware that I’ve been a widow for nearly 2 years. Ed and I were married for over 50, all my adult life. Research indicates that widowhood is a 48% mortality risk. It can be as high as 90% in the first 3 months for both men and women! So how do I survive and actually thrive? Why is widowhood not hell, in spite of the pain? I live alone for the first time in my entire life!
I am physically separated from the most important person in my life, yet I’m not isolated, disconnected. I’ve not become an island. Widowhood isn’t hell. How is it not?
I can thrive in widowhood because of COMMUNITY, and in particular the St. Paul’s Community!
Community is defined as a feeling of sharing fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interest and goals. Community is important because it helps us become more fully human. The saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” is true. We need more than just parents or extended family, we need friends, school, church, cultural experiences, lots of people with different ideas and perspectives help form us.
Community helps us become more fully human.
Research also indicates a major factor for those who survive widowhood is the level of social connections they have. The support they receive from others. Connection to their community can significantly improve their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Even yours?
Even though family, school, work, various teams or clubs, etc. are types of communities, none of these can help us grow fully into the person God created us to be. Each has limitations because of limited goals, attitudes and interests. Many are of no use to our spiritual growth at all.
I feel more alive because of my connection to St. Paul’s community. It helps me stay connected to myself and therefore my husband who will always be part of me. It helps me stay alert to the present through ways to grow, and it gives me hope for the future. Here I can thrive by Growing in Relationships, Growing in Service, and Growing in Christ.
I need community, we all need community. Community is how we help each other become who God created us to be. Find the right community for yourself, because community is really important!
If you need support of any kind, reach out to Dr. Jeanne and the Center for Counseling & Education. "The mission of the Center for Counseling and Education is to serve the individuals, families, faculty, and staff of St. Paul's Episcopal Church & School in a nurturing spiritual environment. Through counseling and educational services, the Center seeks to promote and enhance the well-being of individuals and families within a confidential environment of compassionate listening. The Center is interfaith, serving people wherever they may be on their journey in life."