While death is an inevitable part of our fallen world as a result of Original Sin, our faith helps us to confront it.
Nevertheless, when death visits our family, we might feel angry with God. Pope Francis says he “can understand” this reaction. He acknowledges that the grieving process takes time, and it is filled with questions: Why, and what could have been done differently, and what a person experiences at the moment of death.
Still, the Holy Father says, “with a sincere and patient process of prayer and interior liberation, peace returns.”
Here are some further ideas from the Pope to help us in our grieving process:
1We still have a mission.
After we’ve lost a loved one, we must realize that we still have a mission on earth. “It does us no good to prolong the suffering, as if it were a form of tribute. Our loved ones have no need of our suffering, nor does it flatter them that we should ruin our lives.”
2We can’t dwell on the past.
We must continue to love our dear ones now that they are elsewhere. We shouldn’t be dependent on the past, constantly dwelling on our deceased loved ones and always bringing up their names.
3We should accept our loved ones as they are now.
“Love involves an intuition that can enable us to hear without sounds and to see the unseen. This does not mean imagining our loved ones as they were, but being able to accept them changed as they now are.” Let us think of how Mary Magdalene and the disciples were led by the Risen Jesus to a different kind of encounter with him.
4We know death doesn’t poison life.
Our faith assures us that death is not the end, that “those who die do not completely pass away” and the Risen Lord is always with us. As the Church prays, “The life of those who believe in you, Lord, is not ended but changed.” Hope assures us that our loved ones are “in the good strong hands of God.”
5We can be close through prayer.
“One way of maintaining fellowship with our loved ones is to pray for them.” The Catechism tells us that “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them but also of making their intercession for us more effective.”
6Our loved ones continue helping us.
Scripture shows the martyrs interceding for those suffering on earth (cf Rev 6:9-11). And various saints have promised that they will continue to help their dear ones from Heaven, even able to do more than they could on earth. Our union with those who sleep in the Lord is in no way interrupted.
7We can accept death and prepare for it.
And the way to prepare for death is to love those beside us now. One day, we will meet our loved ones again. Just as Jesus “gave back to his mother” her son who had died (Luke 7:15), so it will be with us.
These reflections are taken from Amoris Laetitia #253-258.