Catholic Grief Support: Finding Comfort in Community

Grief is something that we all experience at some point in our lives.  We witness the death of nature over and over again all around us, we lose pets, friendships, jobs, houses, and finally, we lose people that we love, which brings us into contact with one of the most profound experiences of loss.

As Catholics, loss is deeply embedded in our faith tradition.  In Jesus we witness the deepest grief, his own suffering, and the suffering that comes with his death. We travel together with Mary in her suffering, and we walk alongside the disciples and followers, who looked up to Jesus as teacher, as rabbi, one who brought hope in times of despair.

When grief comes upon us from nowhere, with the death of a loved one, we are often lost for how to take the next step forward. In that place of darkness and confusion, it can be hard to know who to reach out to for love and support.  And even if you have been faith raised and faith filled from a young age, it can be hard to hold onto the thread of deep connection with God, who for some of us seems to have slipped from view.

Walking into rooms, not knowing where you are, wandering around the rivers of your imagination, seeking your loved one among faces in the crowds, staring off into space as though there is no tomorrow, these are all common experiences that can be amplified and at times intolerable in our aloneness when we are deep in grief.  Reaching out for support can be an unappealing proposition, especially if you doubt that anyone would be able to understand you and your unique experience of loss.

Grief experiences is normal and absolutely understandable

However, if a glimmer of light shines through, in the midst of our grief, in the despair of aloneness, in the wondering of what the meaning of life and death is, we can also discover that we are not alone, that others have also had this experience, and while no two people’s experience is alike, there are often qualities of encounter in common that can be shared.  Like travellers on the road to Emmaus, as we talk grief, we find meaning in our experience together.  This support is well worth seeking, especially from like minded people.

Ways to connect with others going through similar loss

Catholic grief support communities are many and varied, they can exist within parishes, they can be independent, they can be affiliated with cemeteries such as Grief Care which is funded by Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria in NSW, they can be linked to aged care facilities like Calvary, and they can be included in the programs of state-wide bodies such as Catholic Care.  All of these organisations run programs to support you in your grief journey, each providing a unique service that they have developed to accompany you as you walk your own unique journey, allowing you to hold the memories and continue the bonds as you find your own way to navigate this experience of love and loss.

Heartfelt, where you have landed at this point in your journey, is a charity that offers grief support in community.  It is unique in that it provides online sessions that have a spiritual dimension within the Catholic faith tradition. It’s not that you have to be Catholic to belong, but belief in the values of Love, Faith, Hope, Compassion and Forgiveness as embodied in Christ, both in his teaching and healing as well as his suffering is the lens through which we view grief, and it has become one of our main sources of consolation.

Exploring relevant Bible passages about sorrow and God’s presence

One of our main sources of support is the scripture, from which we draw inspiration and consolation. Jesus, healer and teacher, illuminates the power of prayer, and how this empties us before God.  It is in this place that we are invited to show up as we are, in our pain and suffering, the indwelling of the divine where there is no judgement or advice giving, where all of our parts are accepted and more importantly, loved.

The Catholic Ritual of Prayer to Support us in Grief

In addition to reading and reflecting upon scripture, our other main source of entry into grief is prayer.  Prayer was what Jesus did when he felt troubled and in need of deep connection.  Grief, the ultimate loss and disconnection, sometimes forces a  re-establishing of connection through, with and in God, who becomes  our portal to hope. Prayer in community is deeply containing and connecting.  It is one of our greatest supports, our greatest gifts and our greatest forms of faith.

Below are some resources that provide ongoing grief support within the Catholic Faith Tradition.

Grief Care – Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria

Catholic Care Sydney

Seasons for Growth Diocese of Maitland