God's natural & supernatural gifts to the bereaved and suffering.
God has provided so many gifts for us to help us as we navigate this journey through grief and suffering. Some of them occur naturally (green) and some of them are given to us supernaturally (super-green). I do believe that the super-green gifts are the most important. They enable the green gifts to work more effectively. The green gifts alone might not be sufficient to provide the healing and peace that we need.
Before you read these potential remedies, be wary of a misplaced sense of guilt. Many people feel guilty if they experience any type of relief from sadness or any feeling of happiness or even joy after a person they love has died. Your loved one that has died will not be upset if you find relief. They will not think that you must not have loved them very much if you aren't sad all of the time. As a matter of fact, I believe that if you do experience any relief of joy, it is because they are begging God for this for you. You are honoring their prayers if you open yourself up to God's help in any of these ways.
Some of GOD'S GREEN GIFTS
1. THE SUPPORT OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS
I am so grateful for the love and support that we received in our darkest hour! The many people that reached out to us were truly the hands and feet of Christ carrying us when we couldn't carry ourselves. To me this was by far the most important of the "Green Gifts," especially in the immediate aftermath of Brett's death. The prayers, meals, phone calls, texts, flowers, gifts, cards and letters, tears shed with us, time spent with us, etc. touched our hearts so deeply and left an indelible mark. Below are some of those people:
Every time we look at our pet with love our body reacts positively by producing chemicals that lift our spirits. When you do this many times throughout the day, it is a great natural help for our sadness.
"We animal lovers have long known that, no matter what life may bring — sickness, sadness, or radiant health — pets make us feel better. Numerous studies have documented astonishingly wide-ranging effects. Cat owners enjoy a 30 percent reduction in heart attack risk. Watching swimming fish lowers blood pressure. Stroking a dog boosts the immune system. Now researchers can explain the source of our companion animals’ healing powers: Our pets profoundly change the biochemistry of our brains."
Read more here
"Your dog offers unconditional love, companionship, and lots of fun. You have no doubt felt the joy of being greeted with a wagging tail, doggy kisses, and a loving nuzzle. The pleasure experienced with such a welcome definitely lifts your spirits. It also changes your body chemistry and greatly benefits your emotional and physical health by increasing your feel good hormones, serotonin and oxycotin."
Read more here
Here is my little serotonin lifter - Teddy Thomas. He has been such a blessing to me. Every time I look at him I can feel my heart lift. I thank God for him every day!
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Read more here
4. CRY IT OUT (literally) - TEARS
Emotional tears have special health benefits. Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.”
Read more here
5. LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
My family and I had to learn to live one day at a time, especially for the first two years. That was all we could do. Thinking of never seeing Brett again in this life was more than we could bear. Each morning I would wake up and think, "I can get through today without Brett." Thinking of the future without him, even only as far into it as the next day, was too hard. We learned that God’s grace and provision are always with us in the present moment. We don’t have the grace and strength for the future yet but we will when it gets here in real time. Now that it is almost four years later, I am able to think about the future without my son physically present in it without it causing me anxiety. Two years ago I could not do that. God has given me the grace to live in the present moment with joy & sorrow peacefully coexisting in my heart and, at the same time, with much hope for the future even though Brett will not be a part of it physically. I know that it is His desire is to do the same for everyone. Living in anticipatory anxiety about the difficulty entailed in carrying a particular cross is a recipe for depression and poor health - physically and psychologically.
Some of GOD'S SUPER-GREEN (SUPERNATURAL) GIFTS TO THE BEREAVED
These super-green gifts require supernatural Faith in order for them to release their healing effects in our soul. This kind of Faith is a gift given to us by God in Baptism but it is given to us in seed form. The other sacraments, especially the Eucharist, a life of prayer, reading scripture, obedience to God's will, serving others, etc. all nurture the growth of Faith in our souls but there are many other gifts that nurture its growth as well.
Our faith can be likened to a channel or a pipeline of God's healing grace. It opens our souls to receive the fullness of God's presence in our suffering and it elevates our suffering to a supernatural level; it enables us to cooperate with God in bringing a greater good out of it. This is what our loved ones who we are grieving over desire for us. They are cheering us on! They do not want to see us destroyed by their death.
(If your Faith is weak, ask God to increase your Faith. If you are a baptized Catholic but haven't been to Mass for a while, seek reconciliation with God by going to the sacrament of Reconciliation. If you are not baptized, enter R.C.I.A at your local Catholic Church and receive the gift of Faith through Baptism. This will open the door to so much grace and healing in your life!)
Some of the super-green gifts from Christ that I have found to be immensely helpful in the healing process are the Eucharist, Redemptive Suffering and the understanding of Purgatory. I have experienced miracles of healing in my broken heart through Christ's presence through these channels of his grace that our beautiful Catholic Faith offers us.
1. THE EUCHARIST
The strength of receiving the Risen Christ in Holy Communion is so amazing. Carrying our crosses is hard. We need him. In the Eucharist His strength begins where our natural ability ends and little by little he pours it into our hearts, minds and souls. You cannot always detect it sensibly but, like an antibiotic or a vitamin, you know from hindsight the effects. Not only that, our loved ones are at Mass with us every time we attend. We are worshiping God with them there. Our Mass on earth is a participation in the Heavenly liturgy. WOW! Have you heard of the phrase "I'll see you in the Eucharist?" 2. REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING
To me the waves of grief can wash over me like a tidal wave and it can literally feel like I am drowning and the water feels like the Dead Sea if I don't know what to do with it. When I offer each wave of grief to the Lord as my sacrifice it changes it into Living Water because he takes each one I give him, unites it with his perfect sacrifice and uses it as a channel of grace for others. This increases the flow of grace into the world. He allows us to see some of what he uses it for here and now but most of what he does with our offering will be seen in heaven.
It can be helpful to make a prayer list and as each wave comes, take out your list and pray "I offer this suffering for...." This is what we are doing at Mass - If you think about the words of the "morning offering" that we might have learned as children. We are at Mass to offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father for the salvation of the world and because we are members of His Body on earth (Cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31; Col 1:18; 2:18-20; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13) and he lives in us (Galatians 2:20), our offering has merit - eternal value. What a high calling we have! If all bereaved people knew this, what a difference it could make in finding meaning and a mission in their suffering!
To learn more about how to make your whole day an offering for your loved one who has died go here
The church teaches that unless a person has an "ST." (as in Saint) in front of their name we cannot assume that they are already enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven and because of that, we should continue to offer prayers and sacrifices (suffrages) for them to aid them in their journey to full union with God. There is a very real exchange of spiritual goods - they cannot help themselves but they can intercede for us and they will if we ask them. We pray and offer our good works for them and they intercede for us so the relationship continues even now but in a new way. We have experienced many blessings through my son's intercession and I know I am helping him too. This is so good for a grieving heart! It gives us something concrete and effective to "do" with our grief. It is also a great incentive to grow in holiness because as we grow in holiness our prayers and works become more fruitful for our loved ones. Pope Francis speaks of this in his POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION AMORIS LÆTITIA OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS #'s 253-258. Here is part of that:
"257. One way of maintaining fellowship with our loved ones is to pray for them. The Bible tells us that “to pray for the dead” is “holy and pious” (2 Macc 12:44-45). “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective”. The Book of Revelation portrays the martyrs interceding for those who suffer injustice on earth (cf. Rev 6:9-11), in solidarity with this world and its history. Some saints, before dying, consoled their loved ones by promising them that they would be near to help them. Saint Therese of Lisieux wished to continue doing good from heaven. Saint Dominic stated that “he would be more helpful after death… more powerful in obtaining graces”. These are truly “bonds of love”, because “the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the Lord is in no way interrupted… [but] reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods”. If we accept death, we can prepare ourselves for it. The way is to grow in our love for those who walk at our side, until that day when “death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev 21:4). We will thus prepare ourselves to meet once more our loved ones who have died. Just as Jesus “gave back to his mother” (cf. Lk 7:15) her son who had died, so it will be with us. Let us not waste energy by dwelling on the distant past. The better we live on this earth, the greater the happiness we will be able to share with our loved ones in heaven. The more we are able to mature and develop in this world, the more gifts will we be able to bring to the heavenly banquet."
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that even if our loved ones are already in heaven and we continue to pray and offer sacrifices for them, especially the Mass, their "accidental glory" (their intimacy with God and their intercessory power) increases because love (charity) is always creative and even in heaven we will be growing for all eternity.
Susan Tassone, from EWTN, explains “Accidental Glory” by Thomas Aquinas. Fascinating!
To learn about other super-green gifts go to My Lifelines