Grief is universal: when someone dies, the people who loved that person grieve. How they grieve, however, is unique to each individual person, based on their personality, culture, belief system, and faith. So how does the grief of a Catholic differ from anyone else’s grief?
As Catholics, we have the promise of the resurrection, which gives us hope. As St. Paul wrote in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13 and 14, “We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, to make sure that you do not grieve for them, as others do who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that in the same way, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” Does this mean you shouldn’t fully grieve the loss of a loved one? Certainly not. We are people, and as people, we experience the pain of death and loss, even though we have the hope of resurrection, it doesn’t mean that we don’t miss the person who has died.
It’s important to support those who have suffered a loss, both as a community and individually. As Catholics, we are called to love one another, and part of that love is offering compassion and care to those who are grieving. You can support a grieving friend by attending the wake or funeral, offering specific help, praying for your friend and his or her loved ones, and giving them a safe space to talk not only about their grief but also about the person they have lost. You should talk about the person, too, sharing memories you have, while avoiding clichés like “he’s in a better place” or “everything happens for a reason.” It’s important not to use the faith as a way of minimizing the pain your friend is feeling, or dismissing the loss of someone important.
If you’re the one who is grieving, take comfort in scriptures like Romans 8:38, which states, “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” At the same time, give yourself permission to fully grieve your loss. Remember that the scripture also tells us, in Hebrews 13:5, that God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Look for God’s presence in your grief, leaning on your faith for strength to face the days ahead. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Pay attention to your own physical needs. It’s easy to get off track when you’re grieving, neglecting to get enough sleep or eat healthy meals.
- Accept help from people who care about you. Your friends, family members, and members of your community will want to help you, and it’s important that you let them help, and don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Find someone to talk to, also, whether that’s a friend or perhaps a counselor.
- Use your pain to help you pray for others. Praying for another helps lift you above your own pain, and so while it’s beneficial for them, it benefits you as well. Remember, too, to pray for souls in purgatory, because that ancient practice is a Spiritual Work of Mercy.
- Find additional ways to connect and help. Reach out to other people, perhaps volunteering at a charity or helping a neighbor. As you find ways to help others, you’ll be helping yourself to heal.
The Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose is proud to be a part of the Catholic Community in San Jose, California. Committed to providing a sacred place where families can remember loved ones in a peaceful and hope-filled setting, we welcome you and your family to visit our properties and experience the peace of these prayerful places. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. We have three locations: Calvary Catholic Cemetery in San Jose, Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, and St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Milpitas. If you’d like to know more about our properties, or you need to know where to send flowers, you can contact us through our website, or call Calvary at 833-428-0379, Gate of Heaven at 833-304-0763, or St. John the Baptist at 833-428-0379.