To say our world is going through a turbulent time is an understatement. The confusion, anger, and fear that many of us face each day may seem incredibly overwhelming, and mourning the loss of a loved one only adds to this stress. It may be hard to find the motivation to remain hopeful.
However, I’ve found much comfort in the simple phrase: keep the faith.
While this suffering may be new to many of us, we must remember that our world is no stranger to suffering. Whether we look to the Jews of Egypt, those who lived during the time of Jesus Christ, those taken from their homes and sold into slavery, among many other groups – we can see how faith gave them the strength and the perseverance to continue on.
Personally, I look to my Slovenian ancestry for strength. I look to my parents and grandparents who were forced out of their homes due to their religious and political beliefs. They left everything they knew behind, only moving forward with the few items they could carry with them. However, despite their newfound poverty, despite moving as refugees from camp to camp, they found a way to celebrate Mass each Sunday. It was their faith in God’s mercy and love that kept them alive, and it was faith that led them to a better life.
We all face our own unique form of suffering on this earth. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with our struggles. However, we must remain faithful. We must remember that while we our limited to seeing the here and now, God is eternal. He has led the world through suffering time and time again, and He will always provide us with an everlasting hope.
Today I attended the burial of a woman I’ve known for years. As solemn as it was to bear witness to her burial, I found myself smiling. I thought back to the moments we shared, and the true privilege it was to know her. The whole event reminded me that every person placed in our life is sent by God. Whether the relationship was good or bad, long or short – every encounter we have is intentional and serves a specific purpose in our path to growing closer to God.
Now more than ever, our world is aware of our mortality. While we cannot control what happens next, we can control our outlook, our actions, and our priorities moving forward. We are all facing degrees of separation right now, whether you’ve recently lost a loved one or are currently social distancing. It is easy to give in to feelings of loss or loneliness. However, as valid as those feelings are, try to balance them with feelings of happiness and peace. Think of the wonderful time you shared with your loved one. Thank God for that time together. That time is a true gift – a reason to smile.
Above all, we must remember that our God calls us to live by faith, not fear. I pray that, despite our circumstances, we may all find a way to connect with those we love and cherish the relationships God has placed in our lives.
It goes without saying that these are difficult times –the sacrifices we’ve had to make over the past several weeks are unlike any other we’ve experienced. For those who have recently lost a loved one, this time is filled with even more confusion and despair. It may feel like there is no end in sight.
As overwhelming as these feelings may be, as Catholics we have a powerful source of hope. In many ways, it’s appropriate that this time of isolation and anxiety would overlap with the Easter season. If we think about how Jesus felt in the garden on Holy Thursday – realizing that He would need to handle this impossible task alone, begging the Father to take this responsibility away from Him, we come to understand that these feelings, though valid, are temporary.
The confusion, isolation, and pain that Jesus felt were followed by His ultimate triumph. The Easter season is a reminder to all of us that, while we may never understand God’s plan, His way always leads to greater life, greater glory, and greater hope.
While no one can predict where God’s path may lead, we know that we will get through this. We must trust in God, and remember that no matter how bad things may appear, Christ will always shine through to light our way. May God bless you and your families during this Easter season.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my office at home when a cardinal started to tap on the window. I watched, as it would tap the window, fly to a nearby tree, and then back to the window. It was almost as if it were trying to get in the house. Having lived in the same home for almost 20 years, I couldn’t remember seeing a bird behave this way. I thought it was strange and simply carried on with my work.
The next day, my wife called me to say a cardinal was tapping on the window. She reminded me that cardinals represent a loved one you’ve lost. She said to me it has to be “Ata” and I immediately thought of my father, who I lost this past December. I was overwhelmed with emotion, as I understood that my father had sent me a message to let me know he was okay.
During my time as Director, I have encountered families with very similar stories: parents who had a butterfly land on their daughter’s casket and she loved butterflies; a mother who noticed a hummingbird tapping on her kitchen window soon after the death of her son; and a man who, having recently lost his brother, had butterflies flying around him and his bride during their wedding ceremony.
Some may say that these are just coincidences. However, with God, there are no coincidences. It is only with open hearts that we can see and hear the messages that God and our loved ones send us each day. These messages are a reminder of the hope we have of reuniting with them in Heaven. As we approach the resurrection of our Lord next month, we should look joyfully upon our earthly journey. We must remember that death is a renewing step that brings us toward greater communion with Christ and our departed loved ones.
Until then, let us all help each other as we walk this earthly journey together.
Grief is an experience unlike any other. It changes the very foundation of who you are and how you interact with others. Especially during the early stages of grief, it’s hard to find a new normal, and the comfortable habits and relationships that you once knew may be completely different. During this time, it’s common to lose touch with certain friends. This can be hurtful, as just when you need your best friends most, they may seem more distant than ever. Try to remember that this distance usually isn’t any one person’s fault, but rather a combination of circumstance and misunderstanding.
Restarting these relationships can be an incredibly healing experience, and one that can help you work through your grief and towards a “new normal.” Keep reading for some guidance on how to approach this delicate subject.
Acknowledge the Awkwardness
Remember that grief changes you. Things that used to be familiar may seem strange and different. There will likely be some awkwardness when talking to your friend for the first time in a while. There might even be some tension if either of you feels hurt by the lack of communication. In fact, chances are that you are both experiencing similar feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and hurt. As hard as it may be, try to push through these feelings and remember why you love your friend so much. If this is a relationship you truly value and cherish, then it is one worth your commitment and energy. Along the way, just accept the awkwardness for what it is. You can’t expect to immediately start back to where you were before losing your loved one, so simply understanding that you’re on the first step toward rebuilding your friendship is enough.
Be Honest and Self-Aware
Once you begin talking with your friend, it’s important to come from an honest and compassionate place. Instead of trying to place blame or incite feelings of guilt, having an open discussion about how you are handling your grief is much healthier – it will give your friend a glimpse into what you’ve been struggling with, and how this dramatic life change may have impacted your relationship with them. You should also give your friend time to talk about what they’ve been experiencing. While you have lost a loved one, they may be grieving the loss of what your friendship used to be. The key is not to point fingers or make each other feel guilty, but rather to reach a place of common understanding, compassion, and trust. Sometimes simply talking through your experience can help provide the needed perspective to help your friendship move forward.
Focus on Moving Forward
While it’s important to understand what happened in the past, try not to linger on it for too long. Don’t hold on to grudges or bring up past mistakes. Instead, focus your energy on moving forward. What will you both commit to do to keep your friendship moving forward? Maybe it’s scheduling a weekly coffee date or phone call. Maybe you decide to restart a shared hobby – or start a new activity altogether! With time your friendship will grow and continue to develop. In many cases, this new stage of your friendship will be even stronger than before.
On a final note, keep in mind that every friendship and situation is different. In some cases, it may be healthier for you to let a friendship fade, or in some cases you may establish a new form of friendship. It’s important to do what’s best for you. If a friendship is preventing you from moving forward in a healthy way, it may be best to step back and allow the Lord to guide you toward other people in your life. This can be a hard decision to make, and losing your friend may add to your existing grief. If you find yourself in this position, joining a support group or finding a counselor may be a good idea to ensure you’re receiving the support you need.