The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania that is centered on the worship of God, the ministry of all baptized persons, and the call to be agents of Christ’s love in the world.
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Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
8000 St. Martin’s Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19118

The Rev. W. Jarrett Kerbel

St. Martin's Cloak

The Cloak is a collection of audio vignettes—stories that reveal parishioners’ faith journeys. Share your thoughts by sending us an e-mail.

There is something very clean about grief.

Ronnie Polaneczky

Ronnie Polaneczky is a Stephen Minister. In the last six months both her 84-year-old mother and her sister Franny died. In this interview she talks about how she copes with the loss.

I think through all of this the Stephen Ministry training did help. It helped me just be in that moment. When you are with people who are sick and you know what the outcome is going to be – my mother was in hospice; 6 months later my sister was in hospice, they both died – and all you have leading up to their death are moments. I was acutely aware that if I didn’t stay in that moment, I would never get that moment back. And I knew the moments left in their lives were finite. I was very mindful that I didn’t want to be “checked out.” I wanted to be there for it.

Having said that, it was incredibly painful. It was really painful to be that present. Painful because it made me hyper-aware of all that I was losing. It made me ... I really understand why people go into denial and find other ways to cope, other ways to distract yourself because to be with the enormity of that impending loss is very overwhelming.

What has been really eye-opening about grief is that it is pure pain without neurosis. So much of what has given me annoyance or agita in my life has been neurotic. It doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter, you know? I think about arguments I’ve had with my daughter or with my husband or getting all tied up with being irritated with people at work. Or even my own petty worries, and they really are petty compared to what grief is. 

There is something very clean about grief. All that intense feeling is so not neurotic. It’s real and all that pain comes from the fact that there was all that love. It’s very very clear. I wouldn’t be feeling all this pain if I did not feel and still feel extraordinary love for my mother and for my sister.

If I am shopping – if I am out grocery shopping and I see something that reminds me of my sister I just stand there in the middle of the aisle and I cry. And I don’t care, I don’t care if anyone sees. A few times people have come up to me and said: “Are you okay?” And I said. “Well, you know, my sister just died.”

And this woman, I talked with her for half an hour in the cereal aisle of Shop Right and it’s not neurotic. I think that’s the best thing I can think about when I think about “good.” It’s so real and you have to honor it. It’s an honorable pain. My neurotic pain, I don’t want to honor it; I don’t want to give that the time of day. It feels petty, it’s not the better part of me and I don’t want to give it the time of day. Grief is real and it comes from a real place that needs to be honored because feeling it really does honor the person who has gone and it honors all that love that was there.

That’s good. That’s a good thing.