By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., LPC, SATP, CSAT, Integrity Counseling Services — When I think of death and grief leading to resurrection and new life, I am reminded of the movie, The Passion of The Christ. I am deeply moved at how the Blessed Mother is portrayed in that film. I can’t imagine how unbearable it was for Mary to witness her Son being scourged, forced to carry a heavy cross, crucified, and die a slow, agonizing death. The most moving scene for me was when the Blessed Mother is shown wiping her son’s blood from the ground. One can easily see the weight of her grief. However, I am sure that deep down, she knew that her Son would have to die. This was part of God’s plan. As sad as she was, Mary knew she had to give her Son back to God. This took incredible faith. Fortunately, it was not God’s plan for Mary to grieve forever. He knew that Christ would rise on the third day, and that Mary’s pain would turn to joy. This is God’s plan for all of us.
To grieve means to feel deep sadness over the loss of someone or some thing one had deeply loved or valued, and to let go.
Grief over the loss of a loved one is an experience that everyone must go through in life. People we love will die and we will die. For some, grief comes quickly and unexpectedly, such as for the parent whose son is killed in an auto accident. For others it is slow and expected, such as for the individual whose parent suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Each type of grief comes with its own challenges.
Grief also comes in other forms. One can grieve over the loss of freedom and mobility, such as one who has been physically paralyzed or blinded as a result of injury or disease. People can grieve over things they never had, such as one who grew up in an abusive home and grieves over never having had a safe, loving home. The person who is forced out of a job may have to grieve over the loss of a career. These losses also require feeling sad and letting go.
DEALING WITH GRIEF
At Integrity Counseling Services in PA, our team of psychotherapists often help individuals and families dealing with grief. In the process of grieving, one usually cycles through many emotions: sadness, anger, disbelief, confusion, frustration, fear, etc. There are also many questions that arise out of grief: Why did God allow this to happen? Could I have prevented this? How am I going to live with this loss? These feelings and questions are normal.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone does it in his/her own way. Some people weep, others want to talk about it, and others may want to be left alone. Ultimately, grieving means letting go. Like the Blessed Mother, it means giving our loved ones over to God’s care. This takes time, patience, and faith. It requires trusting that God is taking care of us and our loved ones. It means believing that God has a divine plan for all of us, even when we don’t understand it.
Initially, as we work through the grieving process, all we can see is pain and loss. However, as we work on letting go and giving our loved ones over to the Lord, we begin to see that life goes on, and there are still many good things in life to be grateful for. We can begin to enjoy life again and even laugh. It is here that we begin to experience God’s resurrection. Knowing that we can ultimately be reunited with our loved ones in Heaven helps with this process. The questions that arose from the grief may still be there; however, obtaining the answers becomes less urgent. We come to the point where we can wait until we meet God face-to-face to have all the answers. Here is where grieving can actually deepen our faith and trust in God.
Grieving other losses, such as physical mobility, freedom, or a career also require dealing with many emotions and questions. However, as we let go of the things we valued, we can begin to see that God still loves us and life goes on. By accepting our limitations, we can come to realize that we can still live happy productive lives. To get to this point also requires one to realize that God’s ultimate goal for us is to be with him in Heaven where there is no suffering or loss. In the grand scheme of things, living 80+ years on this planet is but a split second compared to eternity with God in Heaven. All that really matters is being with God.
When the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph presented Baby Jesus in the Temple, she was warned that a sword would pierce her heart. She took this seriously and pondered it. I believe this was to prepare her for the great suffering and grief she would experience over the passion and death of her Son. However, I also believe she knew that she would have to give her Son over to God in order for His Will to be fulfilled. This took great faith and courage in the midst of great suffering. However, Mary letting go of her Son, allowed us to experience our redemption, purchased with Jesus’ death, and the new life that came with His resurrection. Thus, good can come from even the greatest loss.
This Lent, we need to look at the great losses, sufferings and grief we experience, and daily give them over to the Lord. By letting go of them, we can experience God’s great care for us and our loved ones. We may first need to go through a time of great sadness; however, this doesn’t last forever. As we come out of our darkness, we will begin to experience the joy of resurrection and new life. This is God’s Easter promise to us!