In the past Nine Years I have lost my parents and brother. Losses, like all of yours who read this article, that continue to be felt. I remember the day I buried my mother and genuinely thinking that nothing could ever feel as bad as this loss in my life again. Bereavement and loss are part of life and nothing can really prepare us for this awful human experience. All around us these days we are reminded of our mortality. Nature has fallen asleep. The leaves have fallen, land lies fallow, life seems to be on hold, asleep and somewhat dead.
Death is never easy. Death brings with it struggle, emotion and huge loss. Death is unavoidable despite a real temptation to deny this reality. We have all felt the very fragile and vulnerable truth that is very real when we experience a loved ones death. The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis, describes this very human emotion. “What’s wrong with the world, to make it so flat, shabby, worn out looking? No one told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness…and at other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between me and the world.”
Bereavement is felt in the hearts of so many people in all our communities. There is no quick fix in dealing with loss. Life simply never is the same again as a result of a loved ones death. We can continue, engage in the routine but we can never fully “Get Over It” nor perhaps do we really want to. Every year I celebrate the life and death of many parishioners. I am very taken by the goodness, compassion and generosity expressed by extended family, neighbours and friends who turn out in force at funeral time. However, there is an air of unreality about the initial noise and chat that fills the early days of bereavement. The reality is that soon, despite the outside continuing as normal, silence, loneliness and inner turmoil defines the experience of loss from the inside.
November is a time to be sensitive to the bereavement stories that we all have. It is important to remember our losses. Paddy Kavanagh poetically named his bereavement story, “Every old man I see reminds me of my Father”. It is in listening and acknowledging our losses that we can in time befriend and live with the void that is the pain of human loss. C.S. Lewis again aptly describes, “The tears that now freely flows reminds me of the love we once shared”.
The story of Christian hope tells us for all who have gone before us life has changed but not ended. However perhaps the most powerful demonstration of Christ’s solidarity with all who are bereaved was when he lost his best friend Lazarus, simply and profoundly we are told “Jesus Wept”.
Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Newspapers.