How should Christians handle grief?
He didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t have to, He suffered so we would know how to.
– Chris Stefanick
Turning the calendar from October to November is a special time for Catholics. We honor all the Saints known only to God who went before us in the faith, and we solemnly remember those who have died in the hope of rising again.
The feasts of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) are a perfect time to reflect on grief.
For me, this time is a reminder of my own grief. My grandmother passed away in October 2014. On the first day of November, I helped escort her to her final resting place in Greenville, S.C. Three years later, it still hurts to not have her with us. But three years later, and it is easier to remember that she spent her life in service of a loving God.
This is why it is so important to celebrate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. To remember the hope we have in the Resurrection.
Admittedly, this is difficult in times of sorrow. I met a woman recently who was struggling in her faith. A lifelong Catholic, she recently lost her husband of more than 30 years and was left dealing with his business partners who weren’t the nicest people in the world.
I’ve thought a lot about that conversation recently as I’ve watched the tragedies of hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, the wildfires near my old home in Northern California’s Wine Country, the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the terror attack in NYC on Halloween.
A common question we ask in times of grief is, “why would our loving God allow this?” In the case of the widow, she couldn’t understand why her kind, loving and generous husband was taken while his business partners were left behind.
It’s hard to see what God is doing in these tragedies. Even when our vision is not obscured by grief and loss, we cannot fully understand. So high above are ways are His ways (Is 55:8-9).
We see the hurt and devastation these natural disasters have brought. But do we also see how people have set aside political, racial, and religious differences to help each other?
In Napa, California, a local farmer and his son were up all night digging fire breaks that probably saved lives. Even if they didn’t save any near their home, they lightened the workload of local fire crews. Hotels have opened their doors at discounted rates for those displaced by the fires, some even offering free rooms. Local fitness centers offering free admission so people in evacuation centers can at least shower.
The “Cajun Navy” from Louisiana rushing to Houston to help search and rescue crews during the flooding. The generous people who contributed to J.J. Watts’ relief fund which raised $37 million. His original goal wasn’t even $500,000.
Yes, it is hard to fathom all the reasons God allows bad things to happen to good people. Even harder to understand when our vision is clouded by grief. All we can do is trust that He does have a plan (Jer 29:11), and that He works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28).
Perhaps the best part of our suffering and grief in these times is the opportunity they give us to serve and to save others. Catholics can often be heard jokingly saying, “offer it up,” to one another in times of small trials. But there is wisdom in this, as well.
St. Paul knew this when he wrote to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,” (Col 1:24).
For more information on dealing with Grief and loss, check out some of these great resources:
Bryan is madly in love with hockey and coaches at Canisius High School. In addition to his work Bryan is a student at Canisius College earning is Masters. If you see him around campus be sure to say "hi"!