Grief, especially when it is experienced for the first time, is bewildering and seems to remove us from God. We wonder: “God is all-powerful, and my friend was so good. Why didn’t He intervene?” As we ask this question deep in our hearts without hearing an answer, anger and frustration come to accompany our sense of loss and grief.
It is helpful to consider why we feel grief. As we grow close to another person, we perceive the goodness and beauty of their soul, giving us a sense of delight when we spend time together. This delight runs deep because it fulfills a profound longing within our hearts: the desire for communion. Grief is the spiritual pain felt upon losing this communion, and it is most acutely felt with the definitive separation of death. How can we discover God amid this pain? There is an old proverb, “Our greatest sorrows and greatest joys grow on the same vine.” Even as you grieve, give your heart permission to express gratitude for your friend’s goodness. This permission will allow your memory to discover the joys at the root of your sorrow, both of which are the blossoming forth of love.
It is from discovering the inner sanctuary of love at the heart of your sorrow that you will once again find God’s presence. He will not come to you as the Great Pharmacist, artificially abolishing the pain of grief. He comes to you as Father. Amid the pounding noise of our emotions, like stormy waves on a beach, we cannot hear His gentle whisper: “As much as you loved her, I love her more. Entrust her to me.” Then tell God about your pain. Let Him know exactly what you miss about your friend. Tell Him of your own fears of death, of how you struggle to trust, of how your life feels less secure and settled. In time, He will quiet the agitation of your heart as a mother calms her newborn baby — not answering every cry, but holding you with ever greater love and tenderness with each new expression of pain.
Sharing with God both the sorrows and joys of our grief lets Him enter most fully, not taking away pain miraculously, but bearing with us as a true friend: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back for you’” (John 14:27-28). He does come for us, but we must open the ears of our heart to once more discover His quiet, loving presence.
Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.