What Lessons Can We Learn from Grief?

By: Megan Naumovski

The voice of the navigation system calls out:

Caution ahead. Construction zone on Grief Highway, slow down ahead. Exit now with caution or stay to the left to take the outer belt around the city, avoiding depressing content at all costs. Alternate route suggestion: binge-watch stupid sitcoms on Netflix until you have numbed yourself to sleep.

I want to talk about grief.  This isn’t going be easy! But this topic is important.  In fact, it is so vital I had to consult an expert. According to C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed,

Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently, it’s like that. Your bid—for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity—will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it.  And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horrible high; until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpence but for every penny you have in the world.  Nothing less will shake a man—or at any rate a man like me—out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs.  He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses…

Grief Surpasses Culture and People

Grief

Grief is an odd thing.  A truly transformative thing that should be where we stake our bets on what kind of strength resides within us when we are confronted with a loved-one’s death.

Our old neighbors were from India and became like family to us. The husband told me once of nursing both of his parents through cancer to their deaths, and all as a teenager and young adult.  He explained that in his culture they had something like “the crying”. For days after a loved-one’s passing, they stopped the world, and wept.  “We didn’t sleep; we barely ate…we just received visitors who wept and grieved with us.” It sounded horrific to me at the time, but in a culture where we feign self-control, it would seem contrary to our “togetherness”.

My Grapple With Grief

I was the last to go into my mother-in-law’s hospital room. A moment away from trying to be brave and helpful to my husband, father-in-law and siblings because I knew they had more “right” to be upset than I did.  I also knew that I had to face my own earthly separation from her, and so with a deep breath I entered her room.

Our three aunts were there, weeping together (yet somehow very alone). We greeted each other attempting to comfort one another with tearful embraces.  I approached the empty chair next to my mother-in-law, who laid peacefully on her hospital bed only an hour or two after she had passed. The next moment took my breath away—literally.

Shockingly, a spiritual vacuum seemed to engage and take hold of my soul. Tears, sobs, and the very breath pulled out of my lungs for what felt like an eternity. My stomach knotted and twisted in a way I never thought possible. I sobbed in a way I had never done before.

Grief Engulfs You

As my lungs continued to viciously choke breath forward, my memory mourned every sweet word she had ever said to me. Every stitch she had sewn into my clothing and every bite of every delicious food she prepared as if all meals were a wedding feast.  Mostly, I mourned the way she accepted me as her daughter.  She loved us all so well and united her suffering with Christ.

I think the level of my grief was shocking to me, and to my husband’s dear aunts, who were suddenly silent; perhaps suspended in the shock of what had overtaken me.  I wanted to calm down. To control myself from what was perhaps too dramatic of a reaction, maybe even frightening to them. Yet it was too late! The door opened and grief entered in. I had no other option but to give it a place to rest its feet for a while.

From Grief to Good

It’s difficult to discuss this moment of pain and loss of self-control, but there is love in the offering.  A revelation of grief as C.S. Lewis admits that writing “A Grief Observed” was recognition that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”

During the event of my mother-in-law’s passing, we all experienced the loneliness of grief. This occurred whether we were together in the same room or not.

Grief is a solitary experience.  People connect with one another in a way that impresses upon the soul.  Our experiences seem to form a linear bond of relation that can never be duplicated by two other people; we can’t even recreate the exact same moment of interchange or experience that we had with another person again.  Each moment of interaction with another person holds its own relevance in time and eternity.

Our actions and relationships help shape us into the person we are today— better or worse.  These are the things that we mourn at separation.  While I was hugging my mother-in-law, I recalled the words she stated at my bridal shower. The same type of care and love her mother displayed all her children.  My father-in-law was remembering sweet embraces of their early marriage. He also endured in supporting in the days before her death.   My brother-in-law missed the way she laughed at his joy. My husband missed his mother who always encouraged him.

Seek Love During Grieving

When God our Father reminds us through his son, Jesus, that the greatest commandment is love. Love God first. Then love our neighbor as ourselves. He knew that every word, look, impression, feeling, condemnation, encouragement and connection built an interior experience that is outside of time and space.

Everything counts. The preciousness of human relationships is entwined in the great tapestry of the Master.  Listen intently, O little creature of His; ask for a pure heart that sees the other with His eyes. Go forward with a prudent pace, a burning heart and a desire to delicately preserve those in your path today with the knowledge that each encounter will be forever imprinted on their soul and yours.

This article was inspired by a recent viewing of the movie Unplanned. I cried a gut-wrenching grief. Such grief has been a rare experience since the day of my sweet mother-in-law’s passing.

Our Lady of Consolation Shrine Carey, OH


Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog.

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A Letter to Lucia

Below is a letter I wrote to my unborn daughter Lucia Faustina who we buried on 12/19/2017.

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Dear Lucia,

 

Today, I stood aside a grave of another unborn child. I will never be able to hold you in my arms, or gaze joyfully at your face, or comfort you when you cry. It is not natural for a father to bury his child. This is truly a surreal and somber experience. Hope is the only thing getting me through this day–this week. The virtue of hope will be key to helping me through the next several months as I grapple with the loss of my sweet daughter.

Your name means “light”. Lucia I pray for strength to live out my vocation as a husband and father to your amazing mother and siblings. I guarantee that your brothers and sister would adore you. I am also confident that you are looking over us in communion with Jeremiah, St. Lucy, the Blessed Virgin and all the other saints in Heaven. Please send our Heavenly Father my supplications for daily pardon and peace. I am reeling from losing you, but I understand that hope can never be lost if I cling to God’s Providence. May the light of God radiate upon your family as you provided light to your mother and I even though it was for what seemed a fleeting moment.

Your siblings and your mother deeply miss you. We hope to be united with your after our pilgrim journey in this life is completed.

With great love and gratitude,

Your father

P.S. I conclude with a prayer to St. Lucia asking for intercession to help my family heal:

Saint Lucy

Whose beautiful name signifies ‘LIGHT’

by the light of faith which God bestowed upon you

increase and preserve His light in my soul

so that I may avoid evil,

Be zealous in the performance of good works

and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and

the darkness of evil and sin.

Obtain for me, by your intercession with God

Perfect vision for my bodily eyes

and the grace to use them for God’s greater honor and glory

and the salvation of souls.

St. Lucy, virgin and martyr

hear my prayers and obtain my petitions.

Amen.

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Reality is Undefeated!

Perfection is rare especially in professional football. Throughout the history of the National Football League only 4 teams [the 1934 Chicago Bears, the 1942 Chicago Bears, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, and the 2007 New England Patriots] lasted an entire single regular season with an unblemished mark. Competition is tough. Teams and companies rarely leave unscathed over the course of time. The same is true for individuals. Life will definitely throw you curve balls—many of which hit us!

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I struggle with constantly striving for perfection. Largely, this is due to my obsessive compulsion towards having order. However, the more I strive for control and order the less I possess it! My idea of perfection is imperfect. True perfection, perfect humanity involves seeking out love, truth, and beauty with sincerity of heart.

When I seek a perspective beyond myself , I have learned that authentic personal growth occurs. Over time I have realized that only the truth, taught by Jesus Christ and safeguarded by the Catholic Church has stood the eroding power of time. In other words, truth—that which is real and reality itself will always find a way to win, a way to persevere. Reality is undefeated.

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Venerable Fulton Sheen sums it up best, “Truth does not change; it is only forgotten from one generation to the next. The truth is the truth even if no one believes it, and a lie is a lie even if everyone believes it.” Truthfully, I was going to end this post with the words of the American bishop. I have been struggling with the sin of sloth lately and I am trying to stave off despair due my wife and I’s recent miscarriage of our unborn child. The Holy Spirit inspires in mysterious ways. Tonight, I sensed the movement of God in perhaps the most surreal way–connecting the dots to my family’s story.

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I received a text message at 11:40 a.m. from the funeral home director that he wanted me to call him back about setting up a team for the funeral service. Being in training for my new job, I did not read this message in full until later in the evening. Upon arriving home, I cooked supper for my kids, gave them baths, and my wife and I put them to bed. It was not until almost 9 p.m. that my wife and I were able to eat dinner ourselves. We lounged on the couch watching sitcoms on Hulu. As I said before, I struggled with laziness and tonight was no different. I did not really feel like, nor even wanted to, finishing this post.

Suddenly, my wife told me something that connected the dots. “You know honey, St. Lucia’s feast day is today! I do not think it is a coincidence.” It took me a couple seconds to figure out what she meant. I checked my text message sent earlier today from the funeral director. He stated, “We received word from the hospital, Lucia is no in our care. Please call me back about setting up a time for the service.” Me of little faith.  Reality is undefeated. Truth always triumphs. Circumstantial things only appear like coincidences. It is over the course of time that apparent serendipitous events are revealed as part of a larger Divine plan.

st lucia

We named our unborn child, we believed in our hearts to be a girl, Lucia Faustina. December 13th–the same day we got confirmation that the remains of our child is safe with the Catholic funeral home–is the feast day of St. Lucia. Reality is undefeated. I cannot explain this happenstance except through the eyes of faith. God provided some consolation to my disparaging soul today. Will I be healed by the end of the week? Certainly not. I am further convinced that God has a great plan for both my wife and I and that we should not despair– instead we need to cling to hope now more than ever! Reality is undefeated. Truth always triumphs–it is not always easy and suffering is guaranteed. I will conclude with the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-25: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me.25r For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Amen.

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