by Guest Writer Valerie Boles
Grief is something no one likes but everyone experiences. It is a part of our human experience. We hurt when we lose something or someone. Usually when we think about grief, we think about the feeling we have after someone dies but we can grieve when we get seriously ill and can’t do the things we use to do. Whenever we lose something, we grieve.
Grieving is a process our minds, bodies and souls go through to deal with the loss of something good and important. When we are grieving, every bit of us can be affected; our bodies feel tired and weary, our minds can be preoccupied, we feel sad, we can’t do our work with the same excitement we normally do. Even when we’re not thinking about what we have lost, the world just doesn’t seem quite right. When we are grieving, it feels like we will never be the same again. It feels like the world will never, ever be quite right. Love is essentially God’s signature on the people and things in our lives, and our loves become a part of ourselves to the depth which we love them. God does not want us to feel incomplete forever. We are not stuck in this lonely feeling; together, with God, we can experience our grief and remember who, or what, we have loved as still a part of ourselves, even if now tangibly absent.
The first thing we need to do is acknowledge what we have lost and what we are feeling. We cannot hide what we are feeling from ourselves, nor do we need to.
Next, we need to commemorate the person (or, perhaps, the opportunity, the ability, the animal companion, or even the cherished object) we have lost. In grieving for those who have died, funerals and wakes are beautiful ways for us to commemorate our loved ones as a community. We can also commemorate people individually. Some people write beautiful stories and poems, others can make artwork, and some others might run races in honor of their lost loved ones.
The step that lasts forever is remembering. We always remember who and what we have loved. It is especially helpful for me to remember my lost loved ones in prayer and visit their gravesites on their birthdays and leave flowers. I also like to keep pictures up of my lost loved ones so I can remember them every day.
Sometimes, we can wonder, “Where is God?” and “Why did He let this happen?” These are hard questions and it is important that we share this pain with God and ask these questions in prayer.
God does not want death to occur. It was not in His original plan. When sin entered the world, so did death. Jesus’s response to death was to experience it for himself, with us. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He showed us that he is with us even when the worst things happen, even death.
We may not feel like God is with us when we are suffering loss, this is why Jesus gives us tangible things to assure us that he is with us. We can see Jesus’s death when we look at a crucifix and we can reflect on Christ’s death by reading the Gospel accounts of the passion. The most tangible way that we can experience God during these times of grief is through the sacraments. In the Eucharist especially, we can see, smell, feel and taste God even when we don’t feel God’s presence.
One of the most important things to remember during these times of grief is that Jesus did die and he did suffer with us but that is not the end of the story. Jesus rose from the dead. Even though the death of our loved ones is so painful, death does not have power over us. Jesus’s resurrection shows us that we do not need to fear death for ourselves or our loved ones. Even though we are separated from them now, we will not be separated from them forever.
For some of us, the idea of heaven is one that is easy to accept, maybe even obvious. That is an incredible gift. Others, find the concept extremely hard to believe. After all, we can’t see heaven. No one we know has ever come back from the dead and told us about it. It seems that we have no evidence for such an ideal. This is again where I point to Jesus, who tells us that he is preparing places for us in heaven. We trust him because he did rise from the dead! Jesus is our hope.
Valerie Boles is a graduate student of occupational therapy at Saint Francis University. She is passionate about finding creative ways to communicate the Gospel. In her free time, she enjoys camping, listening to podcasts and reading.
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak