Friday, November 11, 2016 - Updated: 9:20 AM
QUESTION: My husband died recently and was buried with a Catholic funeral. The support of family and friends at that time was very helpful, but now I just want to be alone. I have many feelings, and some involve loss and anger. I just don’t want to be around anyone, yet I feel guilty because so many people want to support me and I just want to turn them away. Is this an un-Christian way to behave?
ANSWER: I am happy to know that the Rite of Christian Burial and family and friends were such a support. But even that outpouring of love can only do so much. The death of loved ones touches us at the very deepest levels of our lives and faith. Coming to grips with this involves a struggle of several different aspects. The first level is often very personal.
The loss of a loved one may bring from within us an entire array of feelings including guilt, frustration, jealousy, lethargy, narrowness of perspective and even anger. Those feelings are spontaneous and most often not signs of a lack of faith or much else, but the normal struggles of faith-filled people dealing with the most difficult aspects of human life.
There seems to be a rather elastic time period in which people deal with these feelings. That period is uniquely personal because of one’s personal relationship to the deceased. Even in a family, the loss of a single individual means something different to each member of the family. All experience the loss of the same person, but their grief is unique because that person fulfilled a different role for each of them.
During that period there is often little that others can do to help. The important point is to be patient with yourself. The experience of grieving and separation takes time, and there are no set schedules for that.
At some point, however, the strength of our faith challenges us to reach out to others to give and obtain strength. It is at that time that our families and the church can once again be of great help. Once we have grieved and come to terms with the feelings within us, we are then able to make use of the support of others.
There are many ways in which this may be obtained. Some parishes have support groups for those who have lost loved ones. There is also a ministry within the Diocese of Pittsburgh for those who have suffered loss because of tragic death.
The promise of the Resurrection is indeed the happy ending of our faith. It does not mean, however, that our lives will not be marked with struggle on the way. The support of others is especially important as we move toward that goal. It is equally important to realize that in our own grieving (and all that accompanies it) we need never be alone. Perhaps it is a balance that is most important — time alone and time spent with others. Both can promote healing and growth. Both can enable us to deal with our own feelings and come to be of help to others.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.