00:00 – 09:10 = introduction and context (Grief).
09:11 – 11:09 = Therapeutic response.
11:10 – 16:09 = Every person grieves differently.
16:10 – 21:59 = How and why does grieving matter to us (Jesus wept)?
22:00 – 24:07 = Truth, beauty and goodness.
24:08 – 24:17 = Closing.
Pastoral Response to Grief – Fr Sean Byrnes
Grief is a result from death, most common moment is in death
One of the things I frequently hear priests say is that we don’t need to be afraid of death. Death is just the next step into eternal life. And while this is true, I also get why people fear death and why it leaves such heavy grief.
We were made with forever in mind. Death is so contrary to that reality.
Yes we move into the next life, but an ending of earthly life, a separation of body and soul, this is not something that we were ever meant to experience.
So when Paul calls death an enemy, he really means it!
The grief is so intense because we are made for communion with others and for a time the communion we experienced with a particular person in our senses and our soul, is interrupted.
We can no longer experience that person in a bodily way, and so the manner in which experience them internally is changed as well.
Conversations had, hands held, hugs given. The sacramental manner in which we experience the world and God’s grace working in the world is ruptured by death in some way
Precisely because of this, grief goes right to the heart of our existence. The response we give must therefore be more than ‘There’s no need to fear death’ or a far worse and sadly more common response, ‘They’re in heaven now, and they don’t need to be sad.’ When children say this it is innocence speaking. When adults say this, it is a neglect of the sacramental reality in which we live.
There’s been a rupture of some kind that impinges on us.
In terms of a pastoral response, what is required? – Fr Sean Byrnes
As a priest, my biggest task with a family who are grieving is to sit and be.
I’m often present at hospital beds with dying patients and their families gathered around.
I rarely say much at all. I’m just there.
I try my best to read the room. Some people are really uncomfortable with a priest, and so if i can sense that discomfort, I’ll make my visit to them brief, doing what must be done to help the Christian soul depart this world.
Other times family are receptive, and so I’ll just stay for a while and pray as the Holy Spirit guides me.
After death, one of the questions I am privileged to ask the family as they prepare for the funeral is: Can you tell me about your loved one? I get to see how they saw their mum or dad or brother or friend.
Another task (difficult task) I have as a priest is to provide boundaries for the family around the funeral.
While this often comes down to what is appropriate in a Christian funeral and what isn’t, sometimes the boundaries are more around giving them boundaries to help manage their emotions at the funeral.
I’ve had to break up fights, or give words of encouragement, or even directives.
Sitting and helping people who are physically grieving.
Perhaps the most important is the follow up after the funeral. Willingly going to someone’s place and sitting with them in their grief and difficulty.
Therapeutic Response – Stina Constantine
Create an open space where a person is able to be raw and vulnerable with what is going on for them. Allow them to remain vulnerable – holding space for eah other to grieve.
This can be hard in a family situation, because everyone is grieving. SO having a third person to hold space for someone can be helpful.
Can start quite intense, with BIG feelings including a loss of control . Eg Loss of mission, control, identity crisis.
Over time can become less all consuming.
The Goal of therapy becomes to help the person to adjust to a new reality without their loved ones – and to find a way to stay connected to that person in a new way (rituals, traditions, memorial, mindsets etc).
Everyone grieves differently, and it manifests in different ways.
It can make a person act very differently to their normal selves, and that’s OK.
Avoid asking a grieving person to solve your problems for you, as minor as they may be.
E.g. simple questions, even to ask how to help.
A lot people find death hard and know that it’s a sensitive time, so try and be sensitive to others and tip toe around wanting permission from the grieving person and look for guidance from them on what to do.
That puts the onus back on the grieving person to do more mental work to accommodate for you, instead of us taking the ownership of that.
So don’t ask them ‘what can I do for you?’ or *let me know what I can do for you’.
It’s not their job to consider your gifts, talents, time and consideration and to find a way for you to help them.
At times of grief, it’s your job to find a way to help them.
Just act, don’t ask.
Don’t ask when is a good time to drop around, just drop around, and if they’re not there don’t tell them you tried to drop in, just try again another time, or leave something for them at their door.
Give them every reason under the sun before you take offence – especially in the early days. If they’re not calling you back, or they’re being short with you in their responses to you, it’s NOT YOU. That’s grief. They could be overwhelmed preparing for the funeral, or being with loved ones and really time poor.
Grief puts a person at ‘Zero’ and they are battling with a lot including a great adjustment without the person they loved, so don’t ask them to adjust their lives in any way to convenience what you want to do, or to be sensitive to your needs, not even when it’s for them. Now is not the time for that. That time will come, but it’s not now.
Give leeway before taking offense.
Don’t take actions as a personal offense in a time of grief. If it goes for an extended period of time, then start to get worried.
If it’s out of character for the person, then realise something’s amiss.
Go be there for them.
Why does grieving matter to us?
Theological and anthropological reflection – Stina
I’ve been reflecting on the two little words in John’s Gospel ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). He cries. The resurrection and the life, wept.
Jesus knew Lazarus was going to rise. Jesus knew this sorrow would be turned to joy.
Jesus knew a miracle was about to take place for the glory of God… knowing all of this, why weep?
I think it’s quite simple, he saw their pain. That simple – he saw their pain.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus were people he loved, his friends.
When our loved one’s hearts are aching, our hearts ache. It’s a very real pain.
I don’t believe Jesus wept because Lazarus died, he wept because his friend’s hearts were aching.
Jesus grieved for his friends, but also grieved because his friend went through death. His heart bleeds that Lazarus has gone through death.
They showed him their vulnerability, and he entered into that with them. He didn’t say to them ‘That’s enough crying now, don’t you know who I am?!’ or ‘Ye of little faith!’
He wasn’t interested in stopping the grief, he entered into it with them, and it was from that place of their vulnerability and heart ache that he called on the power of God to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Sometimes we can also become so afraid of that vulnerability, like it will consume us or we will spiral if we enter into another’s sadness.
But if we pay attention, we can see that Jesus doesn’t crash and burn when he cries and is deeply moved.
Instead, he continues to act. He continues to move towards what must be done in order for God’s miracle to happen, but he does so whilst remaining close to their hearts and staying in the pain with them.
I think is a much better path for us who want to be authentic Christians.
In the face of grief, we don’t need to come up with one-liners that make a person stop crying. Don’t need to fix the situation.
We don’t need to say anything that indicates they need to have more faith in God.
We just need to be present, to welcome whatever that person has to say, or however that person may feel. Just sit in the pain with them. That’s real compassion – the meaning of compassion, ‘to suffer with’.
They have just lost someone dear to them, remind them you are there with them not just in words, but in action.
Be present, and being present doesn’t mean presuming, or preaching, it means just be willing to listen and understand, to hold space for them as they grieve, process, and refigure their lives, whn this person is no longer in it.
If the son of God can weep, then so can you and I.
If he can be moved at another’s ache and pain, then so can you and I.
Padre – The Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila. Essentially a journal of her soul and life.
Stina – Moments of healing during the family of grief – being called upon to love in ways I’ve never been called upon before. Just being able to let God and let God love those around me. I had someone say, ‘That’s the best way to minister, when it’s all God and not us’.
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