By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published July 7, 2016
Ever since my husband’s death, I’ve been studying a topic that I never had any intention of exploring. Let’s face it—grief is one subject most people studiously avoid—and for good reason. No one wants to join the club of bereaved spouses, relatives and friends—but we are all, at some point, pulled, kicking and screaming, into this dark classroom. Here are some things I’ve learned that may help others.
There is no set timetable for grief, which can go on for a long time, depending on the closeness of the relationship. Sadly, the more intense the love was, the more painful the sorrow will be. For some people, grieving may last two to five years—and even then, the bereaved person will not be “over” the death.
Everyone grieves in their own way. For some, tears flow many times a day right after the death, while later the waves of grief come less often. Other people, however, don’t cry much at all, which is also normal. The danger comes in trying to avoid sadness, since this tactic can postpone healing. Distracting yourself—with movies, sports events and traveling—can help, but if “busyness” becomes a way to avoid confronting your loss, this can be a problem.
Some questions have no answer, although it is human to ask them. Why did she die so young? Why did he die suddenly? Why was there so much suffering? Why, why, why? The hardest thing in the world when we say to God, “Thy will be done” is to realize that many of our “whys” go unanswered—at least while we are on earth.
One question that has helped me live through this tragedy is: “What would Jef want for me?” He would want me to remain faithful to God, and to find happiness again. Above all, he would want me to cling to the hope that we will one day meet again at the heavenly gates.
When you lose someone, you lose a big part of yourself. For me, that meant no longer being someone who could care for Jef in small ways, such as making a cup of tea and baking his favorite bread. Now that he’s gone, I have Masses celebrated, pray the rosary and offer up holy Communion for the repose of his soul. Yes, our loved ones may already be in heaven, but we don’t know this for sure—and no prayer is ever wasted.
If you’re angry at God for allowing this death to happen, that’s normal. Keep in mind that anger doesn’t mean you no longer love God. If you were ever angry at your father when you were a child, you know it didn’t last forever.
I’ve found comfort in reading the psalms, which span the full spectrum of human emotions—anger, fear, sorrow and abandonment—as well as trust, hope and joy. A truly wonderful book—“Getting Through the Night” by Eugenia Price—movingly explores God’s promise in Psalm 30 that at some point mourning will turn into joy.
Your friends may avoid saying your beloved’s name for fear that it will upset you. You can gently tell them—when you’re ready—that you enjoy hearing that special name and savor the memories. You might also write down your favorite remembrances in a journal.
Every day has small moments of joy, which I’ve learned to appreciate even in the midst of the deepest sorrow I’ve ever known. Seeing a rabbit in the yard, drinking a good cup of coffee, watching a funny movie, feeding my hamster—all these are reminders that God is still with me.
Grief comes with intense emotional pain, but it won’t go on forever. There may be moments when you’re hit by a wave of sorrow so strong that you think you won’t survive it. Such pain is impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t lived through it. C.S. Lewis compared the loss of his wife to the amputation of an arm. You never get over that loss, but with the help of the Lord, you can eventually learn to live with it.
Artwork (“Christ at the Gates”) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.