In September my life changed dramatically. A sheriff’s deputy rang my door bell and notified me that my mother, at the age of 51, had passed away. While the news came as a bit of surprise, I also could say it wasn’t surprising at the same time. She struggled with diabetes from her youth, and in recent years lost several toes on one foot, and further amputations in the future would be required. The challenges she faced with the one leg, were now beginning in the other leg, it seemed like a long, arduous journey. I believe, that God foresaw her suffering and chose to spare her of it by granting her eternal rest.
As a priest, I’ve celebrated many funerals. I’ve walked with individuals and their families during times of sickness, from this life into eternal life. Ministry changes by experience, and now having experienced the loss of my mother, I know that I can walk with others in a new way going forward. In my own grieving process, and through my personal prayer and reflection, I’ve found the scriptures to provide me with support during this difficult time. I hope these insights, while beneficial for myself, may prove to be so for you as well.
It’s Okay to Cry
In John 11:35 we are told that Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. As you mourn the death of your loved one, give yourself permission to cry. If the son of God cried over the death of his friend, you can cry when someone you loved passes away. Psalm 56:8 also tells us that tears are received as a prayer before our God. In a time of loss, if you can’t find words to pray, let your tears be a prayer.
You will be Comforted
This is the promise of Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted. This comfort might come in many different ways. For starters, many people provide us comfort by their words, prayers, help, and support during this difficult time. As I mourn my mother’s death, I also receive comfort knowing that she has been spared all future pain and suffering she would have endured given her medical condition. There is comfort in knowing that something better awaits us after this life. Yes, there is mourning, but within that experience you find comfort in varied ways.
You can talk to your loved one
One day Jesus took Peter, James, and John aside and led them up Mount Tabor in order to reveal the grandeur and majesty of God to these disciples. Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white, but another key moment in this story is what happens—Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah. That’s the beauty of eternal life. Our loved ones who have gone before us can be intimately involved in our daily experience of life. They may be separated from us physically, but they are able to be with us in ways we cannot even fathom. As I went through my mother’s belongings and cleaned up her house, every now and again I found myself talking with my mother. “Why didn’t you ask me for help?” “I’m sorry I didn’t help you more.” Or when I brought in a lamp she gave for Christmas that has emblems of the Virgin Mary on the glass, I thanked her for that gift. If there are things you never said to a loved one, don’t be afraid to speak them now. They can hear you.
Friends Will Support You
John tells us that Mary, Jesus’ mother, stood at the foot of the cross. She was not there by herself. She had people around her and they were supporting her and consoling her. Being an only child and the sole remaining person in my family, I had to sort through everything on my own. Thankfully I had a good number of friends around me who were willing to help me at a moment’s notice. After I received word of my mother’s death, and was later praying in the Church, I said to myself, “I’m all alone now.” But I quickly realized that wasn’t true. I had so many people surrounding me, who wanted to support me. They stood by me, and still do, just as the disciple whom Jesus loved, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Clopas did for Mary.
You Need to Support Others
As you can imagine, my mom had friends. I realized in the few weeks after her death, that I need to be present to them and support them. That’s what Mary, as a grieving mother, did for so many following the death of Jesus. She had to console the disciples who abandoned Jesus and those who were closest to him. Not only did she need to be supported, but she supported others in the time of their grief. Don’t forget the people your loved one had in their lives. Be sure to be present to them in some way as they grieve their loss and adjust to their life without their friend.
Make Visits to the Cemetery
The morning of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in order to anoint the body of Jesus. She was going to visit his grave. One of the reasons why we bury our loved ones in cemeteries is so that we have a place to go and visit our loved one. Be sure to visit the cemetery from time to time, bringing flowers, and spending time with the one you loved. Some people I follow on social media bring a can of soda or a favorite food for their loved one as they visit the cemetery. This is a custom especially in Latin America with a special celebration called Dia de los Muertos—translated, Day of the Dead. Also, try to visit during the first eight days of November, because the Church gives a special indulgence applicable only to the Holy Souls for those who visit a cemetery during that time-frame and pray for the dead. The cemetery can become a place of prayer, as you pray for your loved one, and treasure their life in your heart.