“To weep is to make less the depths of grief.” (Shakespeare) 

Grief is as much a part of life as joy. Grief can overshadow us in many ways. We grieve at the anticipation of the loss of a loved one, at the loss of a loved one and in different ways at the loss of a home, job, pet, onset of a serious illness, or finding out we will die soon. The process of grief is unique to the situation and the person experiencing it. It can be lengthy, and it can be healing. We cannot avoid grief by distractions or busyness. We cannot continue to deny it through over work, addictions, or diversions. If we do not face the pain of grief somewhere it will wait for us. As the certainty of grief settles in, we can grow in its pain and in time it will enrich our lives. Death takes away a loved one, but in time we may experience his or her presence in a deeper way. That presence can be nurturing, comforting, and free of human weaknesses. 

No two persons grieve in the same way to a particular loss. We differ in the time it takes to integrate a loss and we must be gentle with ourselves when grief is intense. Minor losses can have a profound effect that we never expected. Major losses may be easier to bear than we imagined. We may seem the same to others on the outside, but on the inside, we are changed. How we respond to grief is unique to us. We grasp at straws when we try to explain how we are different. More often than not, it is beyond what can be spoken in words or perceived in thoughts. 

Grief changes us, and we strive to choose change— for the better. If we choose the negative side of grief, we do not see beyond the consuming fact of loss and feel cheated or become bitter or pessimistic because of what we no longer have. Such thoughts influence the way we do things, insulate us from today’s world and stop us from moving ahead. If we choose the positive side of grief, we feel a union with people in this world who are grieving. We find alternatives to difficult situations and opportunities to grow— despite our heartache. We move from thinking about what happened to us and concentrate on what to do with what happened to us. In the midst of sadness, we know that steadfast love transforms, that change promotes growth, that the powers of the mind develop, that conversion of the heart continues, and that time lessens and softens grief.

A four-year-old boy died quite unexpectedly during a routine operation. On the headstone of his grave is a side view of a little boy in overalls, kneeling as if planting flowers in the earth. By his picture are the words: “Budded on earth to bloom in heaven.” Aren’t we all budded on earth to bloom in heaven?

We seem to give them back to you, O God, who gave them to us. Yet, as you did not lose them in giving, so we do not lose them by their return. Life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing except the limit of our sight. [Father Bede Jarrett OP]

Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further. Cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly; draw us closer to yourself that we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with you.

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Written by
Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S.