God Cares. Sometimes our feelings about God become involved in the process of grieving. We can blame Him for what has happened or wonder why he didn't stop it. We may have come to believe that God punishes us for doing wrong. We may think someone else besides our loved one would be more deserving of death. Those who call and come to the funeral home may say things that confuse and anger us: that the death is God's will, that it is a blessing, that God needed a good person in heaven.
Many of us have come to deeper faith through our loss. We have come to believe that God is at least as upset about our loss as we are. After all, He lost His only Son. After all, Jesus stood and wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Even Jesus was not spared death.
If we can make it to the point where we don't blame God for what has happened, we can begin receiving the real help he wishes to give us. We can see Him in family and friends to maintain contact and offer to help. We can receive his strength, understanding and consolation when we see Him in those who listen to how we feel. We can experience the joy of Jesus promise of forgiveness and eternal life, even in the times when we struggle the most. We can come to see that God has not abandoned us at all, but that he carries us through the most difficult times.
It's confusing. The grief stages come and go. Just as we feel we are finished with one, it comes back again. Other people, situations, holidays, news stories, etc. continue to remind us of the person we have lost. We need to remember that what we are feeling is normal. That is crucially important when we experience depression.
The Grief Process
Numbness [Denial]. The body protects us from what is really happening. The experience does not seem real. We can go through the motions at the time of loss and sometimes through the time of the funeral as through we are spectators watching from a distance. This can be a stage of bargaining as well, telling God we will do or change anything if the person can be brought back. Over a period of time, reality is faced. It is important to talk about it , not to keep it at a distance with frantic activity, pills or alcohol.
Anger. May be directed at the doctor, nurses, ambulance people, anyone who could have saved the person, at innocent bystanders, God, ourselves, the person who died, the clergy person or even someone else who has not lost that particular relative or loved one.
Guilt. Guilt is anger turned toward ourselves. None of us is as kind, sensitive or thoughtful as we would like to be. We may feel bad about things we have said or done to hurt the person who has died. Since there is not time for apologies, we can be left with unfinished business. In the messy business of daily living, we do the best we can - and thank God for those who love us in our imperfections. Guilt can extend to our failure to see the future or to prevent the death. We can say a million times, "If only . . ." We can even feel guilty when we find ourselves having a good time or forgetting about our grief for a period of time.
Depression. A heavy pall hanging over everything. In our minds nothing will ever be all right again. Depression paralyzes us. The simplest and most ordinary jobs become almost impossible for us to do. Looking forward to tomorrow or anything is impossible. This is the most difficult and frightening stage. We need to strive to talk and to keep those who seem to withdraw from us involved in daily life.
Acceptance. The time emerges when we begin to believe we will make it through. That doesn't mean things will be the same as they were or that we won't miss the person any more, but it means things will be all right. We can talk about the loved one and remember them often, but we go on with life. We can find that our experience of loss can be very helpful to others facing similar losses. As we share their grief with them, we can find that contact healing for us as well.
Some Simple Things to Do
The Church tells us it is helpful to pray for those who have died. Our bond with them is not broken at all. Remember that, and pray often. Come to Church, go to the Temple, or a favorite spot and pray. Light a candle in their memory, help the poor, give to their favorite charity, do what you think would please them
Tell the story. Don't allow them to be forgotten, especially by the children in your family. Show pictures, remember the best times. This shouldn't be morbid, but a cheerful link with their heritage.
Emulate their best qualities. Think of your best memories of the person and strive to be that kind of person.
Let go of resentment. The things a deceased loved one has done to harm us come back as well. While praying for the person, pray too, for a willingness to let go of any resentments you might hold against them.
Celebrate an anniversary or special day by including them. Taking some time to pray, light a candle, make their favorite food, go to a favorite place. Don't expect to have holidays and special occasions be exactly as they were. They won't be . . . but they can still be good!
Don't feel guilty when you're not thinking about them. That's probably the hardest, not thinking about them for an hour or two, and then feeling guilty because we're forgetting. Not thinking about the person constantly is a sign that we're doing a little better.
Go on with life, as they'd like us to. Chances are, the person who has died would like us to continue to enjoy life. Do it!
Don't be upset with the insensitivity of others. When we need the help of others the most, they don't bring up the loss any more. The reason is that they don't want to upset us. It might be up to us to begin talking about it. In the same way, our friends don't know what to say to comfort us. Sometimes they say things that are simply dumb: "God needed another angel, it's a blessing, . . ." You know the phrases. When we hear them, we just need to be grateful that the person was there for us and said anything at all. What matters most is that people care!
Many Churches, hospitals, etc. sponsor Grief Support Groups. They can be invaluable sources of strength and help.
Others have been through what we face. They help us until we can help still others. It's difficult, too, especially if we are a helper ourselves. Sometimes it is good to ask ourselves the question, "What would all the helpers do if nobody accepted help?" The road is a much easier one when we allow others to walk it with us. Why not let us add your name to our prayer list. Know that you are in our prayers. May God bless you and keep you safe!
When Bad things Happen to Good People, by Harold Kushner. Written by a rabbi, it has helped many people deal with the death of someone close. It is in most libraries and available in paperback at any book store.
Good Grief by Granger E. Westberg is a synopsis of the grief process.
Motherless Daughters, by Hope Edelman. One reviewer says:
"That book had such an immense impact on me, it surpasses words. As I read that book, I felt as though I was among friends. The author herself says that she searched long and hard to find a book to help her deal with her loss, and when she found so little out there for women who have lost their mothers (mostly at a young age but this book is for any woman who has lost her mother) she went out and wrote her own. That book was a great help in allowing me to access so many different feelings and deal with them, and even more important, I no longer felt so alone as I read words from women interviewed for the book where they were actually saying the very things I'd been saying. I felt so understood."
The material on this page are presented complements of St. Bronislava parish, Plover, Wisconsin, and Father Pat's Place.