As a priest, I deal with numerous occasions of loss. As a minister of divine grace and dispenser of the Church’s love for her children, I get to anoint many sick, elderly, and dying people. In persona Christi capitis, I get to be present at many deathbeds as well as many funerals. Deaths and losses are parts of my priestly ministry so they can get hard at times. As a human being with emotions and feelings, there is no way to care and walk with someone without truly being hurt or affected by what they are going through. It is often very hard to be a priest in front of someone who is hurt, especially when they just recently lost someone. Anger, guilt, and shame are but a few raw emotions that are present. It takes a lot of efforts to truly be present and care when sometimes the word usage from the other side is not always pleasant. As emotional and sentimental beings, we get affected by the projection or transference of others’ baggage, pains, and hurts. Nevertheless, in those moments of loss, the importance of a caring relationship and the deeper understanding of communion and connectedness are important.
Even though the raw emotions are hard to handle and accept at times, they are expressions of what is deep from within. Emotions are signs that we truly care and are hurt by the loss of the person. If we did not care for the person, we would not feel for them. If we did not know the person, we would not be moved by the loss. Emotions, even though at times hard to understand and process, show that we are not indifferent. Raw emotions are signs of a deeper connection, yearning, and love that requires time to reflect and sift through the confusing tensions. That is why it is important to understand when and how to approach the subject as a family or clergy member! If the person is too hurt or overcome by emotions at the moment, it is probably not a good idea to try to help them understand something deeper. It is important just to be present with him or her instead of trying to say or do something to fix the uncomfortable situation or make it better. I had seen and myself had made the mistakes of trying to say things that sound nice but superfluous. Perhaps the prudent and wise choice is to invite the other side to take it to prayer and set up another time when the emotions and feelings are calmer. Even in the awkwardness and intensity of the moment, God is there and love is present, real and tangible without the unnecessary words or comfort.
Many times, people only think that prayer is used when we need to ask God something or as a last alternative in a crisis. Nevertheless, when dealing with loss and things that are hard to comprehend at the moment, prayer is often the best solution. God is on the other side of prayer, and it is perfectly fine to bring our hurts, disappointments, questions of why, anger, and other raw emotions or feelings as part of our prayer times. Perhaps it will take a good while for the person to calm down and move on to something deeper, but it is so important that they offer and bring who they are in the present moment as a part of prayer. If God is truly God for us, we should be able to come to Him at all times and tell Him everything that is in our heart, even things that we cannot understand or comprehend at the moment. The prayers at the beginning of the hurtful or confusing moment of loss will be different than the prayers throughout and at the end of the journey; however, they should all be with the same disposition — from the heart.
Perhaps speaking from the heart when it hurts the most would be asking questions like, “Why did you let it happened? Why weren’t you there?” or the likes. Perhaps one would feel an immense sense of guilt and shame — overwhelmed by what could’ve, should’ve, would’ve happened — with all the if’s scenarios. Perhaps one could only cry at prayer because the hurt is too real and the pain is too much to be put into words. Pope Francis, in his different talks and homilies, touched on this subject with a very personal and intimate theology of tears that I would like to share with you now. These quotes were collected over time:
“The bitterest tears are those caused by human evil: the tears of those who have seen a loved one violently torn from them; the tears of grandparents, mothers and fathers, children; eyes that keep staring at the sunset and find it hard to see the dawn of a new day.
We need the mercy, the consolation that comes from the Lord. All of us need it. This is our poverty but also our grandeur: to plead for the consolation of God, who in his tenderness comes to wipe the tears from our eyes.
We experience what it means to be disoriented, confused, more heartsick than we ever thought possible. In those moments, we look for someone who really understands our pain.
Reason by itself is not capable of making sense of our deepest feelings, appreciating the grief we experience and providing the answers we are looking for. At times like these, more than ever do we need the reasons of the heart, which alone can help us understand the mystery which embraces our loneliness. In our pain, we are not alone. Jesus, too, knows what it means to weep for the loss of a loved one.
If God could weep, then I too can weep, in the knowledge that he understands me. The tears of Jesus serve as an antidote to my indifference before the suffering of my brothers and sisters. His tears teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations. Jesus’s tears cannot go without a response on the part of those who believe in him. As he consoles, so we, too, are called to console [one another].”
I hope you can take some time to reflect on what the Holy Father has to say regarding coming to the Lord in prayer, even if it means that we come through tears. Even though it might be hard to deal with loss and the pains associated with it, we know that we are never alone. The Lord is always with us even when we are too hurt to recognize His presence. The Lord is always listening even though we might be too overwhelmed by our emotions and cannot verbalize what we really want to say. No matter how hard it might seem to be, we cannot stop praying and coming to the One who understands and holds our heart in His loving hands since it was Him who formed it with love.
Prayer grounds us spiritually when we are going through loss and hurtful moments in life, but it is also important to remember that we have to deal with things humanly speaking as well. Overcoming losses and hurts take a holistic approach since we are people of both body and soul, humanly and spiritually made. On top of coming to prayer and seeking help spiritually, it is crucial to reach out for helps with proper human supports from family, with a support group, seeking psychological or therapeutical help. These are real reminders that we are not alone are not meant to be alone. As it gets too hurtful and we feel tempted to isolate ourselves, let us remember to reach out and find proper help along the way. Second, it is also an invitation for us to check up on those who are around us and be attentive to those who are struggling. We might be the instruments that God is sending in their lives at the times of their trials! Even in our darkest and hardest times, we are not alone. Therefore, let us turn to help and be a source of help to those who are hurting.
When the evil one wants to deceive us by telling us that we are alone, abandoned, or isolated, let us turn to God in our prayer. When we are too hurt by grief or loss, let us find solace in prayers, even if it means to simply cry or let our raw emotions be our prayers. No matter where we are and what state of life we are in, we can always pray and turn to God. As we come to Him, may we also recognize the importance of the communion we have with others through Him by reaching out to those who are walking alongside with us in our faith and life journeys. May we go a bit deeper each day, sifting through the raw, in order to reflect and try to understand the deeper questions as to put more trust and hope in the Lord, even if we might not understand it right now or at the time. Perseverance and faithfulness in times of grief and loss strengthen and deepen our loving faith in the almighty and loving God who is always with us. No matter where we are, we are not alone. God is always with us, and if we make a little effort to go beyond the blindsighted temptation of isolation, we can reach out to others for help along the way. We are never meant to be alone, and so (hopefully) even with our struggles, may we learn to depend on Him who loves us and those who can help us in different ways since we cannot do it ourselves. Let us be consoled by the faithfulness of God and console one another as brothers and sisters along the way.