Friday, June 21, 2013

Coping with Grief 03


We have already observed that when someone close to us dies, many of us, whether we are regular worshippers or just on the fringe of the Church’s life, instinctively reach out to God for his love to renew us and give us the strength we need to deal with our grief. 

The words of the Bible and the ancient prayers of the Church assure us that not only do the dead live on in God’s love, but we ourselves are in his care, whatever twists and turns our journey through this life takes. As we put these two parts of the Faith together we realise that in God’s love the living and the dead are not separated at all.

St Paul wrote to the early Christians that nothing – not even death – can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Jesus (Romans 8:39). It stands to reason, then, that not even death can separate us from those with whom we are bound together in that love.

When we are troubled by GUILT that a relationship has ended before certain things can be put right, we think of that line in the prayer Jesus gave us: “Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.” Our side of the relationship might have ended imperfectly; but it also ended imperfectly on the other side.

Of course we forgive the other person. And in the reality of their ongoing experience of God we know that they forgive us. Indeed, we know that God forgives us. So, with the other parties being kind and understanding towards us in our grief, we need move to the point of forgiving ourselves. 

If, however, our conscience is troubled by a serious sin that we committed against our loved one who has died, then part of our healing will be going to Confessionthat powerful and sacramental meeting with Jesus in which his forgiving love sets us free. If you haven’t been to Confession before, speak to one of the priests, and he will help you prepare. 

What about our ANGER, our sense of injustice that cries out for some kind of explanation, especially if the person who died was young or was crushed by suffering?  What can we do when no one can give a satisfactory answer to our Why? Why? Why?  How do we deal with the idea that can sneak up on us that we have been abandoned by God? 

The first thing is to be honest about our anger. Think about the passage from the Book of Lamentations in the Bible we looked at a couple of days ago. People often feel they cannot own up to being angry with God. But, when you think about it, our faith is much more about being honest than it is about being good. After all, an honest person is open to new insights and new ways of relating to God. A person who values their own “goodness” above everything else may actually have a closed mind and be resistant to God’s attempts to draw them further into his love.  

So, we are brutally honest about that anger. We tell God how we feel. We bring before him the questions no one can answer. We tell him how desperate we are for some insight. It may take time, but something will happen, because God really does love us. No-one else can predict what our answer will be, or how we will come to a new place in our relationship with God. But one way or another, we do move through our anger to a deeper awareness of God’s love than we ever thought possible.

In terms of our FEAR, we should think back to the readings in the funeral service which help us face our insecurity and the unpredictability of our death. Those readings affirm death as a natural part of life. 

Even just attending the funeral is a step in the right direction - a beginning - because the service helps us deal with our mortality. It encourages us to face our fear. It renews our trust in God’s promises. Its ancient words and symbols anchor us deeply into God’s love, and we are assured in the Bible that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). 


The difficult emotions we experience when someone has died can begin to be resolved by the funeral service, which seeks to nurture our trust in God. This, together with the loving support of others, enables us to face the future.  
But there is more. During a time of bereavement, some people start coming to Mass on Sundays as regular worshippers, even when they have not been brought up in the Church or attended before. This is often a very tentative stepping into the unknown, with many questions and doubts - but so is the rest of life in the early stages of grief. In any case, these people persevere because of that ancient feeling of being drawn by a love they cannot explain in words. Many have found that giving in to their instinct to seek God helps them put their lives back together after losing a loved one. It is a journey of faith and a real adventure! It is coming to know God’s love more deeply through quietness, prayer and meditation, receiving Holy Communion, and sharing in the ongoing life of the Church family.
I want to tell you that our parish is a real community - people of all ages who care for each another. Just belonging helps us feel supported in facing the daily challenges of life. There are big services, and small weekday ones. We even have meetings for prayer and study in people’s homes, not to mention barbecues and other functions at which people get to know each other. And the church building is kept open during the daylight hours for those who just like to sit or kneel in the prayerful silence with a spirit of openness to the Lord. 

We invite you to come and share in our worship. 

If you would like to talk to one of the priests or lay leaders, please contact us. We are here for you. 


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