Grateful and Brokenhearted


Sadness of Death

Recently, in response to an expression of sympathy, one of my wife’s colleagues was thanking friends and neighbors for their prayers after the recent death of her mother. She signed her thank you note, “Grateful and brokenhearted.”

This colleague is a faithful Christian and professes her belief in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Nonetheless, the grief of such a loss is very real and, at times, very painful. My wife and I thought that her signature, “grateful and brokenhearted,” captures the feeling many Christians experience as we mourn the loss of a loved one while remaining thankful to a merciful God.

All Souls Day

As we approach The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day), I would like to take the next few posts to explore grief and the ways a faithful Christian can express, and perhaps overcome, grief.

It begins with All Souls Day. At Masses throughout the world, we will hear the Evangelist John tell us that Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Let us start tomorrow by being grateful for a merciful God that loves us so much that he sent his only Son to save us. Let us also pray that God will mend our broken hearts as we remember the faithful departed in our prayers.

More on this in the coming days!

6 Replies to “Grateful and Brokenhearted”

  1. I would have propbably signed that grateful (I was) and broken, not just brokenhearted. That’s how I felt.

    One of the things I have noticed is that grief feels a lot like fear. Physically, I experienced the same sensations- that fluttering in my stomach and dryness in my mouth. C.S. Lewis once wrote about grief feeling like being inebriated or having a concussion, and I could so relate. My grief took a long time to unfold, longer than many had patience for, and then I felt guilty too- like I should just get on with it. Many people gave me unwarranted advice. I should:
    1. Make myself get out of bed
    2. Begin my same old routine
    3. Eat healthy food
    4. Exercise regularly
    5. Pray
    I couldn’t do any of that for a long time. I’m still working on some things. I had to get professional help. I learned a lot in counseling and I’m much better. For those who are dealing with the grieving, the greatest gift one can give is to simply listen, and leave the advice up to those who have some training in dealing with grief issues.

    1. Anon,

      That is so very true! Grieving takes time and occasionally, professional help and guidance. Those people who gave you the unwarranted advice only want to end your suffering. But, they end up making you feel guilty for your feelings. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. Mary wept at the foot of the Cross. It is OK for us to do the same.

      Deacon Turner

  2. “Let us start tomorrow by being grateful for a merciful God that loves us so much that he sent his only Son to save us. Let us also pray that God will mend our broken hearts as we remember the faithful departed in our prayers.”

    I’d like to add, it was so hard for me to be grateful for a merciful God at first. He didn’t seem merciful at one point. I was grateful for all the loving and caring people I had in my life, but I wasn’t initially grateful to God- I was pretty irate with Him.

    I thought faith should be empty of those kinds of feelings and didn’t count myself among the faithful anymore. It was a very dark time.

    1. Anon,

      Read my next post. I think it will address the validity of your feelings.

      Deacon Turner

  3. This morning it hit me that next year my mother’s name will be among those read. (Mom has stage 4 gastric cancer, and has a life expectancy of three-four months.) I sobbed into my husband’s chest instead of singing “Shall We Gather at the River.”

    I’ve had a friend who died unexpectedly – it was a horrible shock. After I received the phone call that started out with “Are you sitting down…” I had to leave work, and went home to curl up into a ball. If I felt as if I were kicked in the teeth, I can’t imagine what it was like for his wife and teenaged children.

    I thought it would be better to have some heads-up about the loss of a loved one…you can spend some extra time with that person, you can prepare yourself, you can say your good-byes. But now that I’m in the midst of it…well, I don’t think it’s any better. My sister and I both are planners, and we can’t really plan for what kind of supportive care Mom will need when. We planners can’t stand IF this and IF that and IF the other thing. A social worker told us that we have to concede that we are not the ones in control – we have to take what comes, and address it as it happens. We know he’s right, but it goes against our very grain.

    My mother isn’t afraid of dying, and she’s grateful for the life that she’s had. But she does fear being in pain. I pray for her to have the strength to bear it. That much I can do.

    1. I will pray for you and your mother as well. We spend a lot of energy trying to avoid the pain of death. We need to spend a little more time thinking of the hope God gives us after death. I have yet to find a priest, deacon, social worker or psychologist that is successful in guiding people AWAY from the pain. However, most of us are pretty good at helping you navigate THROUGH the pain. I pray that God will send those people your way in the coming weeks and months.

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