In a worldly sense, nothing about grief is graceful. It’s messy, and convoluted, and sometimes terribly ugly. It’s hard for other people to be around. It’s not a steadily upward climb, and it’s not brave. Grief is raw. It’s suffering complicated by deep longing and deeper love.
Grief is also strangely isolating. We think no one else, even a husband or wife, could possibly understand the sorrow that rends us. How could anyone be inside my mind, my heart, and know this pain? How could anyone possibly understand how lost I feel, how incomplete I am now?
Grief counseling, grief groups, and books on grief are sources of support. Truly, though, another human being, even a boundlessly compassionate human, cannot fill the void that now exists. That endless abyss can only be filled with His endless grace.
With faith, grief isn’t graceful, but it can be grace-filled.
We know our God suffers with us. The first time I received the Eucharist after my son’s funeral, I fell to my knees. For the first time, I truly grasped that I was receiving not just the body and blood of Jesus, but that I was receiving God’s Son, His only Son. God understands grief because he has experienced it. He sent his Son into this world knowing He would suffer and die. God knows the pain of separation and of loss. He knows deep longing and deeper love. He knows.
We know our suffering has meaning. In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, he explained, “If we suffer with Him … we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17) One of the most beautiful teachings of The Church is that we can unite our suffering with Christ. His sacrifice is enough to save us, will always be enough to save us, but our pain is Christ’s pain. While He hung on the cross, He took on all of human sin and suffering, past, present and future. Christ’s suffering was the once-and-for-all sacrifice that redeemed the world. He took my pain to the cross with Him.
We know He allows our grief. In the Gospel story about Lazarus, Jesus wept with His friends. He understood their sorrow, and He didn’t try to minimize it. On the way to Golgotha, Jesus told the women of Jerusalem to weep for themselves and their children. In our modern thinking, we want to take away people’s suffering and pain. Jesus allowed their grief, encouraged it, and joined with it. He knew it was necessary.
We know this is not The End. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the congregation may respond, “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.” The grave was not the end of Christ’s story. His resurrection was His victory, our victory. Our bodies, our time on earth, is finite. Heaven is eternal. We have the hope of meeting our loved ones again because Christ opened the gates of heaven for us.
Although I long for my son, and wish desperately he were still here with me, I also know with assurance that I will see him again. I know he’s a little closer to Christ’s ear, and I ask him to intercede for our family. He spends every day in the Lord’s presence. When I pray, when I ask for God’s grace, I have a momentary foretaste of the joy reunion will bring. My walk right now isn’t graceful, but I choose to walk grace-filled.
In what ways does your faith give you hope when you feel hopeless, alone, or desperate?
Copyright 2015 Dawn Wright
Image: Pieta, Circle of Fernando Gallego, 1490, PD, Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.