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Good Grief: A Meditation of How Grief can be a Gift in Strange Package
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | Sept. 16, 2011 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 09/16/2011 8:11:02 PM PDT by Salvation

grief

As a priest I walk with a lot of people in their grief. It’s a regular part of priesthood. I remember back in 2007 how tough it was for me:

  • The Deacon of my parish, Nerus, like a father to me, died after a long battle with cancer. His final words to me were, “I’m not so good right now, but I’ll be better soon.”
  • My administrative and pastoral assistant, Catherine, like a mother to me, developed a rapid form of Alzheimer’s and within that year went from being at the top of her game to no longer recognizing anyone, within a year she was gone.
  • My Parish bookkeeper, Shirley, also like a mother or an aunt, died suddenly.
  • I was transferred from a parish I loved. This too was like a death, death by a thousand cuts.
  • My father died shortly thereafter, after a long illness.
  • A new parishioner lost her 4 year old nephew when, climbing on a dresser, it fell over on him and he was killed
  • Another parishioner lost her 25 year old son, known well to us all, when he was shot to death.

All in a year. I remember telling God it was too much. And though I got no answer, I haven’t had a year like that since.

Grief just has a life of its own. I often tell people that you can’t get around grief you just have to go through it and experience it to its top. It seldom lets us off the hook. It has something to say to us, something to give us.

I have often thought the gift that grief gives us is love. Many years ago Simon and Garfunkel sang the song “I am a Rock, I am an Island.” The song celebrated a loveless solitude and declared “If I never loved I never would have cried.” The final line of the song said, “And a rock feels no pain, and an Island never cries.” Perhaps they do not. But we who love do cry and grieve. And it is precisely the grief that can deepen our love.

Many years ago (1990) my sister died in a fire. She had been mentally ill all her life and I struggled to relate to her. In many ways I feared her. When I first got news she had died in the fire I just went numb. We in the family wondered if we might be able to view her body or not. The funeral director told us we could view her privately but since her skin has been singed in the fire it was too delicate to touch her. Further, because of this, he had not been able to adjust her face in any way. Nevertheless he thought she was presentable enough for the family to have a private viewing. We I looked upon my sister and saw her face it was very clear that she was crying when she died. For the first time in my life I wept for my sister and lamented the awful mental illness that had caused her such hardship. For the first time I understood her dignity. I guess I am sorry that it took her death for me to come to that appreciation and love of her. But that was the gift that my grief gave me, it intensified my love for my sister. I still cry from time to time when I think of that moment. It was painful but it was a gift and it remains so.

If we let it, our grief will bring us gifts in strange packages. Because of it our love and respect for those we have lost is intensified. Our longing for union with them one day again is deepened and our memories of them become more precious. It is true that the intensity of grief may lessen over the years but most of us know it never completely departs. Why should it? If we love there should always be a part of us that cannot bear to be apart from those we love. We grieve because we love and thank God we love, thank God we love.

Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find anything. We must simply hold out and win through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap. God does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with each other may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters from Prison

Here is a video that depicts grief. I hope you’ll listen closely to the words of the song for they eloquently describe grief. The video portion shows a young woman lamenting the loss of her boyfriend. She struggles to be free of her grief even to the point of tearing up one of his letters. But the problem is not on the paper, it is in her heart. The only way to respect her grief and be free of its strongest shackles is to accept the gift it brings, love undying.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Religion & Culture; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; death; dying; grief; msgrcharlespope
I have talked with many of you about my grief journey. Five family deaths in 10 years. But this priest had all these losses in one year.

Video is at the site. Click on the title link.

1 posted on 09/16/2011 8:11:09 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: All

Feelings are neither right nor wrong. It’s OK to grieve. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be angry.

It’s what we do with those feelings that is important.


2 posted on 09/16/2011 8:15:33 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...

Discussion Ping. Any thoughts you would like to share?


3 posted on 09/16/2011 8:17:58 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
Beginning Experience -- a weekend retreat in your area to work through grief and reach the healing that is possible for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one

This program also sponsors discussion groups, teen weekends, young adult weekends to deal with griefl.

4 posted on 09/16/2011 8:19:34 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Oops.

grief.

This program also sponsors children’s weekends for dealing with the loss of a parent whether through death or divorce.


5 posted on 09/16/2011 8:21:20 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Thanks for posting this. At a meeting of the pro-life group at our parish, I was told of a fellow member who lost a son unexpectedly 2 years ago at the age of 30. Her grief does not seem to diminish and she has become quite depressed over it. I will re-read this later and see if I can find some help in it for Rita.


6 posted on 09/16/2011 8:27:03 PM PDT by Hoosier Catholic Momma (How long till my Arkansas drawl fades into the twang of southeast Ohio?)
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To: Salvation

I grieve my only son lost to me seven years ago. Grieving is not a formulaic thing to be mastered and overcome. It becomes part of who I am and who I will be — it is present always and each day offers up the gift of memory — some joyous and full of grace, some regretful and full of despair. It is Christ alone who accompanies me on this journey with grief, until that day (for which I pray) that I will be reunited with my son. Pax et bonum.


7 posted on 09/16/2011 8:30:48 PM PDT by famousdayandyear
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To: Salvation

Bookmark.


8 posted on 09/16/2011 8:35:46 PM PDT by antceecee (Bless us Father.. have mercy on us and protect us from evil.)
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To: famousdayandyear

Losing a child is so hard. I can’t even imagine it. So sorry for your loss. But you are on the right track. Do check out that linked ministry though.

It’s modeled after the Marriage Encounter weekend except those griefing share in small groups.


9 posted on 09/16/2011 8:42:26 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

“I’m not so good right now, but I’ll be better soon.”

That is Grace defined. Thank you for posting this.


10 posted on 09/16/2011 8:46:07 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (I don't have 'Hobbies.' I'm developing a robust Post-Apocalyptic skill set...)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

You’re so welcome, FRiend.


11 posted on 09/16/2011 8:58:13 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Grief is a gift in hurtful package. Yes, meditation (fasting, prayer,etc) helps. It does not heal. Maybe it’s supposed to. Maybe not. I’ve been stricken a few too many times to believe it a coincidence. It does make me more understanding, and forgiving.


12 posted on 09/16/2011 9:09:54 PM PDT by allmost
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

Grief is a measure of a mix of several things.

How much you loved what you are grieving over.

How much you valued what you are grieving over.

How much you miss what you are grieving over.

It’s intensified if you were in charge of taking care of them, and/or feel responsible in some way for their loss.


13 posted on 09/16/2011 9:13:37 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
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To: famousdayandyear

Hugs and prayers sent.


14 posted on 09/16/2011 9:42:58 PM PDT by Melian ("I can't spare this [wo]man; [s]he fights!" (Apologies to Abe Lincoln) Go, Sarah!)
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To: Salvation

Not only grief coming from the death but also grief coming from dealing with one’s own health and health issues. I have ostroarthritis and is doing PT twice a week. Had an “emotional meltdown” over spilled coffee yesterday coming out from the supermarket.


15 posted on 09/17/2011 3:11:48 AM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

I have struggled with grief since 1995. My mother, my father, and then, my husband, all died within 3 years. My parents lived with us and I was their caregiver. I started going to bereavement groups after my mother’s death and did 3 consecutive groups after my husband died, but nothing helped. I couldn’t stay in that house anymore and went to live with one of my sons and his family. When he was deployed to Japan, my sister conned me into moving back to my hometown. I went from church to church, tried psychotherapy, etc. Finally, I was able to live alone again, and have been living alone (with my precious dog) for 10-11 years. Grief is hell. The only good thing to come out of all this grief is that I converted to Catholicism and have finally found peace. God bless all of you FRiends on this long, sad, oh-so-personal journey.


16 posted on 09/17/2011 4:34:00 AM PDT by MomofMarine
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To: famousdayandyear

God bless you. I can’t begin to imagine your pain.


17 posted on 09/17/2011 5:04:05 AM PDT by MomofMarine
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To: Salvation

Since the sudden and unexpected death at Christmas of my beloved spouse of 40 years, I have had to come to grips with the fact that I am in control of very little. I have always tended to be somewhat of a control freak and was constantly full of plans and ways to control the outcome of life.
All those plans seemed so good that I was sure they had to be willed by God, well I guess they weren’t. Now I am being carried along in a rapid stream in a completely different direction and I just have to trust in the Lord, that He is in control. But even putting trust in the Lord isn’t all that easy and I have to ask Him for help everyday.
Grief doesn’t really lessen; it seems that the way you experience it just changes from day to day.


18 posted on 09/17/2011 5:41:02 AM PDT by k omalley (Caro Enim Mea, Vere est Cibus, et Sanguis Meus, Vere est Potus)
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To: k omalley

Grief doesn’t really lessen; it seems that the way you experience it just changes from day to day.

&&
A very wise statement.

I lost one of my sons in 2009. He was 2 months shy of his 33rd birthday.

{{hugs}}


19 posted on 09/17/2011 7:31:11 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Another Maryland girl for Palin in 2012)
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To: Salvation

Everyone expresses their grief differently. Some seem to be uneffected by the events that cause grief. I am concerned about those who seem uneffected.


20 posted on 09/17/2011 7:55:02 AM PDT by tob2 (Chihuahua mama)
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To: Salvation
I always assume that God permits the heaviest crosses only to those He deems strong enough to carry them. And then He grants them the Grace to do so.

That is little comfort to those in the grips of deepest grief, but it may help us who are looking on or trying to help. And it also helps to remember that words are not always necessary. Pious platitudes can make grief more difficult, but by simply being present, we make Christ present also.

A devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows can also be of immense value in times of deep grief.

21 posted on 09/17/2011 8:18:41 AM PDT by Brian Kopp DPM ("Verbal engineering always precedes social engineering.")
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To: Bigg Red

Blessings and hugs for you.
I tend to think that the grief is different depending on who we have lost. Not better or worse, but just different.
I have never lost a child but I imagine that it would feel like having your heart cut out.
For me, losing a spouse is like being cut in half, vertically, right down the middle, so half of me seems to be missing.


22 posted on 09/17/2011 8:23:30 AM PDT by k omalley (Caro Enim Mea, Vere est Cibus, et Sanguis Meus, Vere est Potus)
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To: Biggirl

Even losing a job can cause a deep grief in a family. Or relocating and losing one’s supportive friends.


23 posted on 09/17/2011 11:03:33 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: MomofMarine

Welcome home, FRiend!


24 posted on 09/17/2011 11:07:02 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Bigg Red

God bless you. Losing a child must be so difficult.


25 posted on 09/17/2011 11:09:37 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: tob2

Yes, there is concern for those who seem to ignore the grief and not deal with it.

The phases of grief according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

1. Denial
2. Bargaining
3. Anger
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

She also talks about Reaching out to others as a step of grief, but doesn’t really list it in her initial list.


26 posted on 09/17/2011 11:12:32 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

You got that right in these very troubling economic times.


27 posted on 09/17/2011 2:36:46 PM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

Thank you for posting this.


28 posted on 09/17/2011 7:14:52 PM PDT by eyedigress ((Old storm chaser from the west)?)
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To: eyedigress

Most welcome. Sometimes people do not want to talk about grief, but it is so important to deal with it.


29 posted on 09/17/2011 9:23:57 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: k omalley

Thank you. Yes, you are right about the loss of a child.

I just cannot imagine life without my husband. I think I would feel as you do.

God bless you.


30 posted on 09/18/2011 4:55:41 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Another Maryland girl for Palin in 2012)
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To: Salvation

Thank you, FRiend.


31 posted on 09/18/2011 4:56:25 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Another Maryland girl for Palin in 2012)
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To: Bigg Red

I lost my boy at 20, when he killed himself. I was away for the weekend serving at a Tres Dias weekend (an ecumenical Cursillo) and when I came back I found him. Every day I want to be with him. It was a year ago this week.


32 posted on 09/19/2011 6:00:14 AM PDT by Fido969
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To: Fido969

I can’t even imagine the heartache you must be feeling.


33 posted on 09/19/2011 11:33:03 AM PDT by k omalley (Caro Enim Mea, Vere est Cibus, et Sanguis Meus, Vere est Potus)
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To: Fido969

Prayers for you. Hugs to you.


34 posted on 09/19/2011 1:07:18 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Another Maryland girl for Palin in 2012)
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