Rohr: Blue Christmas

Rohr: Low Point, Blue Christmas

“At our low points, we are one step away from either enlightenment or despair. Without faith that there is a Bigger Pattern, and the grace to surrender to that Bigger Pattern, most people will move into despair, negativity, or cynicism. We need a promise, a hopeful direction, or it is very hard not to give up. When you have not yet learned what transformation feels or looks like, someone—perhaps some loving human or simply God’s own embrace—needs to hold you now because you cannot hold yourself. When we experience this radical holding, and even deep loving, this is salvation!”Richard Rohr

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation, disc 10 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD.

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The holidays are often the hardest for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. Several congregations have Blue Christmas services to let them know that the church recognizes their loss.

I have been involved as a facilitator with an eight-week grief recovery group, Walking the Mourner’s Path for over fifteen years. Here we experience people near their lowest point after the death of child, a spouse, a parent, a brother, a sister, a partner. We do see despair, especially after tragic deaths, especially after the death of the young, but it always does change. Sometimes it is only a small transformation, sometimes it is huge. By just coming to the group, the participants have made a positive commitment to look for transformation, so they have already made a step forward in a new direction before they come. As facilitators, we are there to hold the group together, to encourage them, to listen to them, to hear them, to give them time to articulate where they are. We are vessels holding the group.

The healers are the participants themselves. They are the ones who know the most about despair. They are all at different stages of grief. They honor and embrace the each other’s place as well. They radically hold and support each other. They have been there maybe a year ago, maybe three months ago. They know the pain better than anyone else, and they can best talk about that road less traveled to recovery and resurrection, honoring the life of one they so loved. It is a privilege to be there seeing resurrection.

Each year I say less and less, for the wisdom comes from the group. This is just one more time that we see healing in community, and all we have to do is be present and look for and point out the God in each other.

This week I am having a Christmas and New Year’s lunch with a Mourner’s Path group who has still been meeting annually for over six years to continue to support and love each other especially during the holidays. They have seen Good Friday. They and I go this morning to hear their stories of incarnation and epiphany and resurrection.


Walking the Mourner’s Path Facilitator Training Trinity Episcopal Cathedral will host a two-day Walking the Mourner’s Path Facilitator Training workshop Feb. 28–March 1 for those who would like to lead groups. The early registration fee is $350 per person, or $250 each if two or more from the parish or organization attend. Contact the Rev. Deb Cooper at or the Rev. Joanna Seibert at