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In the Lord, there is always healing

  • November 14, 2013

This past weekend I re-read A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis’s personal account of dealing with the death of his wife from cancer. I searched the book for some words of comfort to help deal with my own pain at the loss of a family member.

Through my pain and sorrow I came to realize that dealing with death and passing through the process of grief, healing and peace is truly personal. One must enter into pain, embracing one’s tears, vulnerabilities and powerlessness in the face of death, without wishing it away. By uniting with the pain and sorrow of our Lord, by embracing the love of friends and family, by trusting God to lead us through the shadows and by opening our wounds to His healing love, we can experience new grace and growth through grief.

The death of a sibling or a parent touches every family member as a whole, but it also touches each family member uniquely based on the type of personal relationship they had with the deceased. We are all affected by deaths in our families, circle of friends, churches and workplaces. Or sometimes by the death of someone we never met but who had a positive influence on us — a religious leader, a public figure, pop icon, literary giant, etc. Indeed, every death touches and changes us but moreso when we lose a loved on, whether they are near or far.

How we face our own mortality and the death of someone we love will depend greatly on how we understand life, dying, death and life beyond death. I wish to dedicate this column to all those who, like me, are passing through grief after the loss of someone dear. There is healing in every situation or condition of life when we include the Lord Jesus. This is where our faith is decisive in opening us up to receive God’s grace to improve our condition.
The abundant life (John 10:10) promised by Christ is for us who are alive today. It is an actual reality which must be embraced with all its ambiguities, limitations and uncertainties.

It also entails a promise to be received beyond the veils of sickness, pain, suffering and death. This abundant life — the fullness of the life of God — is realized in those who die in the friendship of Christ in fulfilment of the ultimate purpose of our creation.

It is a fact of life that no one is too old to live or too young to die. Another fact is that we do not choose how we die and the circumstances of our death. Even those who take their own lives do not make a choice. Psychology and spirituality have led Christians in particular to see that suicide is a sickness. I am careful in how I explain the death of someone in such circumstances, preferring to say, “he or she died of suicide” instead of “he or she committed suicide.”

Many deaths, of course, are preventable. Many impoverished people around the world die every day from diseases that are treatable; many other diseases are preventable through healthier lifestyle choices; and many people die from wars and poverty that could be avoided if this were a more just, loving and merciful world. The causes of death are as vast as our humanity and the prevention of death has been a central concern of humanity since humans emerged in this vast cosmos. But have we been very successful at preventing death?

The death of a loved one often asks us to question if we could have done something to prevent or delay this death. Or, depending on the flow of our emotions and pain, we sometimes pity the dead, thinking perhaps they were unlucky to die, especially if they died suddenly or after a terrible sickness.
In November, as we remember the cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) who have gone before us, keeping alive the memory of loved ones might require us to remember what in particular they lived for and then make that something we embrace and promote.

Also, in our grief, we should imagine what our dead loved ones would wish for us. Would they want us to spend our life mourning their loss or want us to recommit our lives to living in the fullness of the abundant life of Christ in faith, hope and love?

These virtues do not die; they endure beyond the separation of death.

(Fr. Stan Chu Ilo’s latest book, Discover Your Divine Investment, is published by Catholic Register Books and is available by calling 416-934-3410.)