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 | By Laurel Hilliker

Bearing Loss Together – With Christ and in Community

“Help One Another. This is What Jesus Teaches Us.” Pope Francis (2013)

Moving through the grief process after the death of a loved one has a large social component. Although we live in a society where individualism is highly valued and some grieving in isolation is necessary, too much is incredibly lonely and painful. Knowing that our God is there alongside us is a comfort, but we are also wired for human connection. How do we help others to bear loss?

Recognize and acknowledge the loss. Loss needs our attention and people need our compassion. Show up to support the mourners. In our frantic return from the pandemic, many of us are trying to make up for time lost and have filled up our lives. The bereaved will remember those who attended services and those who reached out through cards, letters, phone calls, texts, etc. in the months and years after the death. They will also remember those who stayed distant as well as those who carried them through without judgment.

Remind those grieving that you are there for them. Then, be there. Let go of reservations about what to say or do. Your quiet presence and your witness to their pain will be valued. I was asked to “be there” for a devastated mother who lost her adult daughter suddenly in 2020. She did not want to “talk” or “be” with anyone; however, she was open to texting. I check in with her frequently, never giving advice, just a simple message, photo or comforting meme. Her responses include excruciatingly painful accounts of memories of her sweet daughter, a person with disabilities. One day, I read a story of a bereaved woman and felt she might relate to it. I prayed a quick prayer and then sent the story by text. Her reply was timely: “You have no idea how many times you have brought me back from the edge, the brink, the ultimate decision.” Our support can be lifesaving.

Remember the deceased. Do not be afraid to use their name, as most mourners appreciate the gesture. Visit the parish of the family and request a Mass for the soul of the deceased. Reminisce with the mourner/s about the person who died and suggest ways that all of you can integrate their good qualities into your own lives.

As followers of Christ, we are called to bear loss together, with him and in community. By acknowledging loss, being there for the bereaved and remembering the deceased, we can provide support, strengthen community bonds and help one another as Jesus taught us.