Role of the Funeral and Cultural/Social Wakes in Grief Recovery

It is often said, funerals are for the living, the dead no longer need anything.  Funerals, wakes, and other cultural forms of communal grieving are all essential elements in helping individuals grieve the loss of a loved one.  It is a coming together where individuals can express sympathy and acknowledge the loss.  Research shows that cultures that emphasize communal grieving usually have far less prolonged grief disorders when the loss itself is not complicated.

Funerals and wakes help the bereaved accept the reality of death, mourn collectively, remember the person, and offer prayers for the deceased

 

Hence, funerals and wakes play a critical role in the bereavement process for the living.  While religious beliefs hold firm that these events are also spiritual and prayers are offered for the dead in the afterlife, the psychological implications of mental health for the living are obvious and clear.  The article, “Funerals: Study shows Irish wakes may help more with grief” by Matt Fox looks at how such communal events during grief help a higher percentage of individuals avoid complications in grief.  In regards to Irish wakes and grieving, he states,

The authors of the research, which has been published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. said that “cultural differences with regard to death may be an explanatory factor” to the reduced levels of the disorder in Ireland. “For example, in Ireland, it is customary to hold a wake (i.e., social gathering prior to a funeral) during which family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and acquaintances can come to pay their respects and support the bereaved,” the authors said.”

“Funerals: Study shows Irish wakes may help more with grief”. Fox, M. (2023). BBC News.

To read the entire article, please access here

Commentary

On the surface one may only spiritual needs of the deceased being met.  From a religious standpoint, prayers are offered for the deceased.  In Christianity, a solemn service of memorial and prayers is completed after prior to burying with ritual prayers said at the grave site.  Other Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, offers a Funeral Mass for the soul of the deceased as well.  In other cultures, days of prayer are also offered. In Hinduism, there are a series of days with various rituals to prepare the soul for the transmigration into the afterlife in finding a new vessel.  So the importance of the funeral and wake are still very spiritual for the deceased, but again from a psychological standpoint, the memorial of life, the gathering, and the funeral itself is very much for the living.

In various cultures, intense periods of grieving are granted to the deceased. Within Judaism, there is a series of days of grieving assigned for the family.  Other cultures have similar days of mourning.  Some cultures have very loud and mournful events where crying and waling is encouraged, while other cultures remain more reserved.  As seen above, the Irish themselves offer a wake prior to the funeral instead of merely after it.  The article by Fox, emphasizes the importance of how communal events that emphasize grief outwardly and permit individuals to express it are far more healthy in the long run.  Cultures, as well as individuals families, that express grief communally and come together have a far less chance of experiencing prolonged grief or even depression.

The Wake and Funeral

The wake and funeral is not only an expression of sadness for the entire family and a social expression of it, but it also aids the family in accepting the reality.  Many individuals may be in denial.  The funeral, calling hours, or wake give these individuals the ability to witness and come to terms with the reality of the death.   The funeral itself is the exclamation mark of the true end of one’s earthly life.  It verifies, it seals and ends all debate.  The person is no longer with us.  This permits individuals to accept but also find consolation with others in expressing the grief and pain.

The funeral in many ways is more for the living than the dead. It helps prepare the living for the long bereavement process. Those who grieve collectively are less likely to face prolonged grief and other grief disorders

In addition, the communal event permits others to cry together and to be there for each other.  Instead of grieving alone, one finds solace with others.  Others who may be experiencing a harder time are given the care and attention they need at the funeral.  The mutual support benefits all parties involved.  While its fine to celebrate the life of the deceased, it is important not to negate the mourning aspect with an overt toxic positivity.  Many events celebrate and remember.  Remembrance is definitely part of it.  It is also an important part of the entirety of the process in accepting the death.

It also gives recognition to the person.  It shows the love for that person.  This creates a sense of happiness in a way to see how many loved the deceased.  It can give comfort to the mourning that their closest loved one was treasured and loved by so many.  It is good to see how the deceased was so beneficial and important to so many other people.  This is especially beautiful for veterans, when the flag covers the casket and the shots are fired to the sound of a trumpet.

Funerals are for the Everyone

The misnomer that children should not attend a funeral is finally being dismissed as a myth.  Children should also be able to express their grief and witness the finality of a person’s life during a wake and funeral.  They can express their feelings, witness the finality, say goodbye, and share their feelings with others. It is an excellent example of life for children to be at a family members funeral.

Funerals again capture the finality of death and help others come to grips, find consolation, and the ability to move forward.  For those closest to the deceased, funerals are the first step to a long bereavement.  Those not as attached may shed a moment of sadness, but they are able to proceed in life well after the funeral, but for those closest to the deceased, the funeral is only the start of accepting the lost.  It helps, but it far from heals the open wound.

Conclusion

Funerals and wakes are key to healthy bereavement.  While some families may prefer to postpone it, the event itself, according to studies, helps prevent many prolonged grief disorders. They are mostly important for those who attend to come to grips with the loss.  The social setting helps others grieve together.

Funerals allow us to grieve collectively. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling and also its Funeral Associate Program

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification, as well as its Funeral Associate Certification.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“Understanding the 6 Purposes of a Funeral”. Hospice Basics.  Access here

“Should We Celebrate Funerals?”. Doka, K. (2021). Psychology Today.  Access here

“Psychologist On Why Funerals Are Fundamental To Processing Grief”. Kelly, M, Doubek, J. (2020). NPR. Access here

“The Primary Emotional Purposes of a Funeral or Memorial”. Friedman, R. (2014). Psychology Today. Access here

C.S Lewis and Grief

C.S Lewis is a classical English writer of the 20th Century.  His observations on grief are insightful as well intense as he documents the grief felt of losing the wife, H.  Throughout, his work, “A Grief Observed” (originally published in 1961),  the loss torments the writer as he proceeds through the various struggles of an English Christian husband who lost a wife.   His struggle includes the intensity of the pain of the grief and its many adjectives and similes, as well as the outward feelings towards others, his past, his beliefs, his anger, his desolation, and finally his renewal.  In it one sees the numerous phases and oscillations of the messy roadmap of mourning. It is not only an emotional journey, but also a philosophical one that questions pain and suffering and how it can co-exist with a good God.  It captures the the progress and regression of how one laments one day but rejoices the next, curses another but venerates later.  It is in essence a progression of grief that illustrates the despair, the anger, and ultimately the adjustment to the loss.  It does not offer a true happy ending but an appeasement and contentment that naturally overtime proceeds from loss.  One never truly heals from loss but learns to live without but with a sprinkle of hope.

Grief

C.S Lewis masterfully captures some of the raw emotion associated with intense and acute grief following loss.  He states, “Noone ever 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, the yawning and swallowing” (Lewis, C.S, p. 1).   He continues that it sometimes feels like “invisible blanket between the world and me” (Lewis, C.S. p. 1).

C.S Lewis masterfully captures the raw pain and existential crisis caused by the loss of a loved one. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Certification

 

Lewis mentions the continual acute phases of grief that overtake him.  He feels fatigue that prevents him from doing the littlest things, such as even shaving (Lewis, C.S. p.3).    In the grief, he feels the shame of being seen by others in public.  He comments how some wish to walk away, or others try to say the right thing or how an younger married couple may think that he is a symbol of their future (Lewis, C.S. p. 10-11).   He also fears publics places he once ventured.  He is afraid to return too soon to places where he and H. once shared good times.  He compares it to as “sending a pilot up again as soon as possible after he’s had a crash” (Lewis, C.S. p. 11).   He in particular takes offense to the good willed sayings of others within the congregation who remark that H. is now in God’s hands.  This only frustrates him more, as he asks, if she is in God’s hands, how can it be any better, if she was in God’s hands on Earth and suffered? (Lewis, C.S. p. 27).   This is an excellent example of how in grief counseling, individuals should not try to fix the bereaved but sojourn with them and acknowledge the pain instead of trying to lift it.

A great fear of most grievers is losing the memory of a beloved.  Lewis is haunted by the fear of losing her memory.   He states, “I have no photograph of her that’s any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination” (Lewis, C.S. p. 15).   Others tell him, she will live in your memory, but he laments that idea of living.   He exclaims in fear and anguish, “What’s left?  A corpse, a memory and (in some versions) a ghost? All mockeries or horrors.  Three more ways of spelling the word dead” (Lewis, C.S. p. 20). He further revels in the fear of those who have finally come to peace with loss.  He remarks how he cannot envision how a man with a hoe and watering pot visiting the churchyard, happily exclaimed it was time to visit “mum”.   Lewis remarks, “A six-by-three foot flower-bed has become mum” (Lewis, C.S. p.21).  Yet, Lewis is not yet at the point to understand the continuation of bonds.  The pain is still too raw, too soon, and too painful.

Wishing to see her again also, sways him back from grief to guilt.  He wishes to see her but then sees this wish to bring her back is a selfish love.  He corrects himself and realizes that this self pity is horribly selfish and to wish her back is a cruel endeavor, especially with the suffering she endured to escape this world.  He speculates, “They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal? (Lewis, C.S., p. 41).

He reviews within his mind a mixed guilt of possibly getting over something too soon.  Someone truly does not recover from such an operation.  He compares this grief to someone losing a leg.  One learns to adjust, but it forever affects oneself.  When one awakes, or dresses, the reality is always there, even if one finds joy in day to day situations.

He also asks himself though, if there is shame in finding happiness, or if one is obligated to prolong one’s own unhappiness (Lewis, C.S. p.52-53).  This is classical in grieving.  One feels an obligation to grieve a certain time.  Grief has no time table and each individual needs to process the grief and then without guilt, heal. It is obvious that Lewis understands this concept but poetically displays the inner pain of those who suffer loss.

Anger

Within the initial shockwaves of pain, Lewis articulates his frustration and anger with God.  He points out that God is always around when one is happy, but when you need Him, he refers to it as ” a door slammed in your face” (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He does not fully come to any conclusion to deny the existence of God, although he does question the goodness of God.  He points out that Christ too was forsaken, but does that make it easier to understand? (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He begins to view God as being who really does not care.  In later chapters, he reflects on this anger. He states, “All that stuff about the Cosmic Sadist was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred.  I was getting from it the only pleasure a man can get; the pleasure of hitting back”.  He continues that what he thought he knew was not true, but felt that at least it might offed him or other worshippers (Lewis, C.S. p. 40)

Many become angry with God in the initial phases of grief but according to Lewis the door is never slammed shut and bolted. He is always with us

 

Philosophically, Lewis does not dismiss the existence of God, but in acute grief, comments how one may believe God is far from good.  He points out that “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?  Anyway, in a God so bad as all that?  The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile? (Lewis, C.S, p.30).  He wonders if this is good, then how is God good?  He later reprimands himself for feeling this, but continues to question the reason for this cruel suffering.   He laughs at himself how once he could tell those who suffered loss that their beloved one is in a better place.   He remarks that he knew bad things could happen and even warned and prepared himself not to place happiness in the world, but he points out that once it happens to you, it is far different.   Once being a source of faith, he know sees his faith as a house that has collapsed.  He states, “If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it a house of cards” (Lewis, C.J. p. 37).  He mocks how he once so easily gave advice, but now cannot it for himself.  Was it because he truly did not care about others, or that he never truly understood the severity of it?

Healing

Stemming from the long suffering and pain, Lewis slowly begins to heal.  He begins to realize his love remains and he can even sometimes hear his wife in a different way.  He remarks his great fear of losing her memory, but now has a sense of her.  He comments, “She seems to meet me everywhere.  Meet is far too strong a word.  I don’t mean anything remotely like an apparition or voice.  I don’t mean even any strikingly emotional experience at any particular moment.  Rather, a sort of unobtrusive but massive sense that she is, just as much as ever, a fact to be taken into account” (Lewis, C.S, p. 51). He also remembers how easily he could misjudge a man in a similar situation who now has happiness despite the loss. He remarks, ” I might have said, ‘He’s got over it.  He’s forgotten his wife’. but the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it'”(Lewis, C.S., p.45).

 

Lewis learns that healing is not forgetting but remembering in a healthy way.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief and Christian Grief Counseling Certifications

 

He further remarks that even with God, he no longer feels the door is slammed shut.  He states that sometimes God is there but one is too frantic to hear or be saved, as if a drowning man kicking and screaming (Lewis, C.S. p 46).   He asks if God is the vet or the vivisector (Lewis, C.S. p. 40).  Is God truly healing and helping the person through the pain into a better life. Lewis ultimately understands that God does not wish suffering but walks with the sufferers and relieves them of the pain and transforms them into life.  While those on Earth, may not understand the ultimate mystery, and may refuse to hear, God is not the sadist, he thought in anger, but a rescuer.   He sees God as the giver and H. as the gift.  H. becomes the garden and God the gardener, or H. the sword and God the smith.  God perfects His gifts in the next life and this gives Lewis comfort (Lewis, C.S. p. 62-63).

He confirms to himself that the road to H. is through God, but he also corrects himself and reminds himself that God should never be a means to an end.  He realizes that through loving God, he loves H. and they will find union in that love together (Lewis, C.S., p. 68-69).   He furthermore realizes that God no longer did not answer his knocking of the door or reject his needs.  Lewis states, “it is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As through He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question.  Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand'”(Lewis, C.S. p. 69).

Conclusion

From a Christian perspective, Lewis explains the emotional pain of losing someone and still being a believer.  He triumphantly captures the nature of grief but also adds elements of Christian grieving.  He proceeds through the phases and oscillations of grief and faces many existential questions.  While reading the words, one truly can start to prepare or recall the true abandonment one can face in the pain of grief and how hard it is again to find solace and peace.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Those who are already Grief certified are eligible for the specialty program.  Like the Grief Counseling Certification, the Christian Grief Counseling Certification is online and independent study.

Reference

“A Grief Observed”. Lewis, C.S. (1961).  Harper Collins Publishers. (1994)

Additional Resources

“C.S. Lewis”. (2021). Biography.  Access here

“C. S. Lewis”. Wikipedia.  Access here

“A GRIEF OBSERVED”. Harmon, J. (2013). C.S Lewis Institute.  Access here

“The boredom and the fear of grief”. Grady, C. (2021). Vox. Access here

Anointing of the Sick and a Peaceful Christian Death

Death entered into the world as a result of sin but through Christ, new life and a new beginning is granted.  While fearing death is natural, the Christian can see death as a transition not a final chapter.  It is a doorway to new life and the fullest life possible.  It is not in the temporal world, where humanity’s nature is complete and unbroken, but only in the next life.  In the next life, the soul is reunified with God and through the promised General Resurrection, the guarantee of unification of again and body and soul.  Hence death is not an end but a phase of existence that is only temporary and an opening into a world so much larger.  It thus extremely important to ensure that transition to the next life is a priority.  This is the case for all world religions, but also the same for Christianity.  With Heaven or Hell for eternity in the balance, ensuring a proper and good death with God is essential and vital.

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament in Catholic and Orthodox faiths and a sacred ritual in other Christian denominations for the spiritual renewal of the dying person

 

Christianity has since its conception emphasized the importance of preparing for death.  The Anointing of the Sick has its origins in Scripture. The Apostle James comments, “is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).

Different Christian traditions all believe in the value of anointing in the sick and terminally ill, but others classify it differently.  In Catholicism and Orthodoxy it is a sacrament.  The Anglican Church considers it to have sacramental character and in most Lutheran and other Protestant denominations, see it as a critical ritual of the faith.   As a sacrament, The Anointing of the Sick, and in the past, Extreme Unction, is an outward sign used to manifest and give grace to the soul.  As a sacrament, it gives grace through the source of Christ’s death on the cross that flows through the Holy Spirit to the soul.   It can be received multiple times depending on the grave danger of the person’s condition.   Hence, it can be received in multiple terminal or possible death situations, whether in the hospital or home.  In the Orthodox, it can also be utilized in communal services.  In the West, under extraordinary circumstances, such as before war, soldiers and certain qualifying groups may receive it.

The matter, or visible sign, is the blessed holy oil.  This oil in the West is blessed by diocesan bishop on Holy Thursday.  In the East, this oil can be received throughout the year at the end of Liturgy on certain feast days but in itself is not the sacrament but used for overall physical and spiritual healing and continued good health.  The form of the sacrament constitutes the various prayers and words offered by the priest or minister during the administration of the sacrament.

Holy Oil is used to anoint the sick. It is the visible sign of healing and presence of the grace of God preparing the soul for the next life

 

Last Rites is sometimes confused with Anointing of the Sick.  It is important to note in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Last Rites entails three sacraments.  Anointing, confession and reception of the Eucharist.

The effects of the sacrament and ritual has multiple sacramental and grace infused benefits to the soul.  It forgives sin but also prepares the soul to peacefully accept death and prepare it for reunion with God.  Physically it can heal but healing and miracles are alone determined by the will of God.  There are miraculous cases but these are extraordinary examples and not the norm.  Death is natural and the healing is more so focused on the spiritual than physical.  Although from a physical and psychological standpoint, the ritual can bring mental peace and a presence of God within the mind of the person.  It is comforting to know that Christ is present with one in one’s suffering and death.

Throughout the study of suffering and Christian grief, the Christian does not seek to escape death, deny it, or even escape suffering, but is called to carry one’s cross and unify it with Christ as one’s High Priest.  Christ is the ultimate example of the Suffering Servant and His example of accepting death and suffering should inspire other Christians to do the same.  While always praying for a cure or miracle, the Christian should also be accepting of God’s will.  One should primarily seek spiritual healing and God’s presence in one’s final moments.

During the reception of Anointing, one may be unconscious or awake, but it is critical to voice the need prior of the desire to receive it.  Family or nurses should be made aware of one’s desire to see a minister or priest.  This can be laid out in healthcare directives and becomes critically important if one becomes unconscious and unable to ask for spiritual aid in person.  Also, it is important prior to risky surgery or potential unconsciousness due to drug induced states to request Anointing of the Sick.  Most in everyday procedures that are not risky may simply say a short prayer of contrition and adoration before simple anesthesia but with far more risky procedure one should never leave one’s soul open to possible spiritual risk and danger.

Through Anointing of the sick, Christ comes to us in our dying moments. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program

 

In conclusion, spiritual preparation before death is critical.  If it happens like a thief in the night, one may receive the sacrament post mortem but one should always pray both morning and night proclaiming love of God and sorrow for sins.  One of the most beautiful things one can pray for is a peaceful death where one is able to receive the sacred mysteries in advance.  This is a blessing that many sometimes never think of due to the fear of thinking about death itself.  However, a peaceful Christian death with grace and the image of God is the greatest gift that may be given in this world.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as its Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“WHAT IS ANOINTING OF THE SICK? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?”. Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis. (2006). Access here

“The Anointing of the Sick – Catechism of the Catholic Church”. Catechism of the Catholic Church. CNA. Access here

“Is Anointing Oil Biblical and Should We Use It Today?”. Riggleman, H. (2021). Crosswalk. Access here

“40 Bible Verses about Anointing With Oil”. Knowing Jesus.  Access here

 

The Stations of the Cross as a Christian Meditation for All Christians

Christianity focuses on the death of Christ as a focal point to redemption.   Christ is sacrificed for the sins of the world.  The ugliness of sin is witnessed in this death.  The Stations of the Cross capture the ugliness of sin in the horrendous suffering of Christ.   The Stations are widely seen as a Catholic tradition but in reality are a cherished meditation for all of Christianity if all Christians take the time to walk with Christ and this journey.

Walk the stations with Christ and meditate on His sacrifice. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

It originated in the early centuries in the Holy Land and was brought West by St Francis of Assisi.  Some of the stations have direct biblical reference while others are implied from Scripture.  During Lent, consider walking the journey to Calvary with Christ through this powerful prayer and meditation. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.

 

 

Please review the video below

Grief Counseling, Happiness and Nonfinite Grief

Human happiness is very subjective and objective.  It is objective in that ultimately, human happiness exists in a state of complete love that can never be taken away.  In this ideal state of happiness, love is ever present and all desires and gains can never be stolen or taken.  Of course, this type of happiness is in impossible in a fallen world.  It is impossible to find love without the haunting thought of loss.  Everything gained, can be taken back.

With this type of fear, objective true happiness can never exist in this fallen world but only parts of it here and there in the present.   Yet, in this search, others turn to even less tenable forms of happiness that pend upon materialism,  fame and success.  These aspects are even more fragile than the objective search of love.   Love, at least true love, exceeds human limits, albeit it can be taken in the temporal world, but material and social sources of happiness are even on more insecure ground.   In themselves, they are not worthy of an end but only means to an end.

Hence, human beings look for happiness in many wrong places and find usually only fleeting moments in happiness, especially if “means” are designed as “ends”.  Human beings will always face tragedy and loss but it is important to understand happiness cannot be found in this world in its complete sense.  So it is extra crucial to place our values and love in only the most important people and ideals. Loss of anything, even the most valued, produces grief, but when value is over placed in only objects, then one opens oneself to greater grief over small things.  This is why it is crucial to understand the importance of attachment to only the most valued ideals or people.  Some would contend this is placing ultimate happiness in God or a form of life philosophy.

Due to human beings seeking happiness in every venue, people experience loss and grief in immaterial and material things.  When these attachment, whether worthy of love or not, are taken from the individual, a sense of dread and grief is experienced.  This type of dread and loss in the search of happiness can also manifest in things that are not tangible or connected to person, but can be losses associated with something that is not even in one’s possession.   Ideas that surround the ideal of happiness in life can also haunt and cause discord and grief in a person.  Unfulfilled dreams,  lack of opportunities, poor life choices, and non touchable ideals that would grant happiness are not found.

Sometimes grief is not tangible but is nonfinite. It lurks in thoughts of a different or better life.

 

The person hence possesses an nonfinite grief.  A gnawing grief that chews upon the person’s existential quest of perfection and happiness.

The article, “Grieving the Life You Expected: Nonfinite Grief and Loss” by Litsa from “What’s Your Grief” explores the many facets of nonfinite grief.  The article explores various schemas of how one wishes a particular life may have turned out and how this can cause discord and sadness in life.  The article continues to look at how one can face infinite grief in life and attempt to find happiness in the life that exists.  The article states, ”

“Nonfinite grief is the grief we feel when we lose these non-tangible things, watching our imagined future dissolve. In Nonfinite Loss and Grief, Bruce and Shultz define the grief that exists when life falls short of our expectations. They say that nonfinite losses are losses “contingent development; the passage of time; and on a lack of synchrony with hopes, wishes, ideals, and expectations”.

“Grieving the Life You Expected: Nonfinite Grief and Loss”. Litsa. October 16th, 2022. What’s Your Grief

To read the entire article, please click here

Commentary

From what we understand then about nonfinite grief, it is not tangible in itself, but is something that exists within the deepest parts of our souls.  It is a discontentment with how life or our trajectory of life has unfolded.  Some may be unware of it, but it is an overall unhappiness sometimes with existence itself.  Wishes, dreams, or what should have been start to play a central role in the life of the person.  This can be a life of the road not taken but also of the road that one wishes would have been available.  Individuals who have heavy crosses to bear, or wish to live a regular life due to an illness or a loved one with a disease. In some ways for those, this becomes similar to secondary losses of opportunity.

Learning to handle this general displeasure with life can be more for others.   Some individuals may carry a different life view.  It is not necessarily based upon how much money someone has or how many cars one owns.  While for some, these material gains may be a measuring stick, for many, we see unhappy wealthy people and very happy poorer people.   Hence it is based upon one’s own convictions and beliefs in what life means and should be.  It is about the ability to cope and adjust.  It is about possessing a world view philosophy or spirituality that guides one through the turbulent waters of life.  Many individuals do not possess an anchor that holds them still in the sea of life and they fall victim to many false faces of happiness.  They find regret and sadness in things and unfulfilled expectations.

Does this mean we should dismiss such general sadness?  While it is important to find a life view that guides a person, it is equally important to help those who do not possess an anchor in life.  Those with anchors can suffer enough, but those without, can find themselves in far more restless situations of unhappiness.

First, it is important never to dismiss any type of negative emotion.  Why someone is unhappy needs to be addressed and validated.  “Whats Your Grief” discusses that many schemas in life do not turn out how one wanted one’s life to turn out.  For example, someone who always envisioned a family and children, who never married or had children can live an empty life.  Others who envision a successful career but are struggling due to the market may also find displeasure with life.  So, the life or road not travelled can become a painful reminder about the current life itself.

It is OK to mourn the life you do not have.  It is OK to look and see what is currently wrong in the existing life.  This is important for a variety of reasons.  First, it is critical to acknowledge feelings so they do not gnaw at oneself from the inside.  Second, reflection leads to real change and adaptation.  While not everything can be changed in life, there are many things that can be improved or altered in a life style to maybe align oneself more closer to the desired end.

However, in acknowledging these feelings and looking for change, one must also realistically separate fact from fiction.  Certain things may not be able to be changed, or improved.  To be at peace with reality and adjust to the reality is key in finding happiness.  Somethings were not meant to be and when acceptance of that finally occurs, there can a be a peace.  This peace can also lead to alternate opportunities.   Furthermore, one does not need to completely despise the existence one possesses in contrast to one’s desired path.  There are good and bad in both viewed existences.

Again, a strong life view, spirituality or philosophy can help anchor an individual with these nonfinite losses and ghosts, but one needs first to understand what matters most in this fallen world.  If one chases objects and worldly things, then grief and loss and discontentment will be a constant in life.   We grieve too much over what matters and what life has given to worry over alternate losses.   This again does not mean to denounce or not try to find change if possible.  It does not mean that these feelings do not need validated either, but it does mean, we can reshape our ideas of hope and our own personal identity to fit the existence we have.  We can change what we can but we can also shape the existence we have into something better.

Conclusion

Nonfinite grief is real.  It is the road not traveled.  It is the life not fulfilled.  It is the career never started or the child never had.  It is a life long sadness.  Sometimes it is placed in more valuable pursuits, while other times it is placed upon trivial worldly things.  Regardless, it needs to be validated, understood and utilized to either help with current contentment or adjustment to something better.

Grief Counselors can help the sad of heart validate their feelings regarding “what if” or “how it should have been”, but grief counselors also need to help individuals reshape their identity and hope to the existing situation.  These acknowledgements can help a person fix certain things or at least adjust to the existence that is given and find the good in it.  Again, grief counselors can also help guide individuals to things more worthy of attention and within one’s own control.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

Additional Sources

“What Is Happiness?”. Psychology Today Staff. Psychology Today.  Access here

“Intangible grief”. Heather McEwen.  August 25th, 2014. By Heart and Hand.  Access here

“What’s Intangible Loss? Definition + How to Cope”. Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, JD, CT.  May 2nd, 2022. Cake. Access here

“What Is Happiness and Why Is It Important? (+ Definition)”. Courtney Akerman. February 16th, 2019. Positive Psychology.  Access here

 

The Stations as a Source of Counseling for the Bereaved

Stations, Grief and Counseling

Many individuals suffer in life unfairly.  None more than Jesus Christ.  His passion and death serve as an example to Christians how to properly offer suffering to God and carry one’s own cross.  The Way of the Cross is not an easy choice in life.  It involves accepting the will of God and having utter faith in His ultimate plan.  As in the life of His own Son, the journey of the cross may not be a pleasant on earth.  Christians can meditate on the Stations of the Cross to better learn about suffering and the value of it.  It can be a tool to help others appreciate Christ’s suffering and sacrifice and also allow one to see Christ as a model of suffering to follow.   Christ tells all, to pick up one’s cross and to follow Him.  This may not be the news we wanted but it the is the news we need.

Christian Counselors, pastors, ministers, and priests all face suffering everyday when they speak to many who experience the worst in life, but by pointing to the cross, one can find an example of how to properly carry one’s cross in obedience even to death.  Christ as our suffering servant serves as an ultimate example but also shows us the love of God Himself to die on a cross for our sins.  This is why it is important to learn the Way of the Cross and to implement it into our spiritual life especially during Lent.

Many who walk the way of the cross, recount many parts of the four Gospels, while other parts stem from tradition or mere common sense.  From tradition, meditation and other accounts, many incidents that occurred during Christ’s trek to Calvary can be meditated and prayed upon.  It is essential in meditation to think back and suffer with Christ in thanksgiving and sorrow for His infinite gift of life.  One can learn so much by this meditation on the stations and become so much closer to Christ in the process.

History of the Stations

So what are the Stations of the Cross?  The Stations as a custom fall back to the 4th Century, when Christians could again in public walk the path of Christ in Jerusalem.  Upon the meditations, 14 points of emphasis emerged that highlighted Christ’s passion.  Again, some of these points of emphasis stemmed from Scripture, while others tradition.   Examples include the Christ’s multiple fallings and the pain of the women and Veronica.   These would be obvious occurrences and were related through other sources or as understood.  For instance, through the many meditations, devotion to the wounds of Christ on His Shoulder from the weight of the cross, or the bleeding of His knees from His many falls grew within the faithful.

The Stations hence were an early Christian devotion that emerged from the East and still to this day for pilgrims is a spiritual exercise.  It became a more consistent tradition in the West, when St Francis of Assisi brought the tradition back to his monastery from his trip to the Holy Land.  Through St Francis, the journey of Christ’s crucifixion became a more consistent tradition in the West communally and also individually.   To this day, the tradition is practiced in Western Churches during Lent with personal devotion any time of the year.

The Stations themselves consist of 14 stations.  Through the years different prayers have been compiled to accompany the faithful through the meditation of Christ’s sorrow or as it is also called the Way of Sorrow or Via Dolorosa.  The priest, deacon or chosen prayer leader walks to each station usually accompanied by a cross bearer.  Usually each station is accompanied with an opening repetitive prayer such as ” We adore you Christ and we bless you-because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world”  Within each station is a meditation and then a series of prayers with the congregation kneeling at certain points facing the particular station within the Church.   There have emerged different traditions with different focal points.  Some are the more traditional prayers while other ones focus on the thoughts of Mary during her Son’s horrible torture.

The stations teach Christians how to face suffering through imitation of Christ through His suffering and death on the cross

 

The Stations

We will now list the 14 Stations.

The First station is Christ before Pilot.

The Second station portrays Christ accepting His cross

The Third station recounts Christ’s first fall

The Fourth station accounts for Christ’s meeting with His Mother during His long trek to Calvary

The Fifth station refers to Simon helping Christ carry His cross

The Sixth station mentions the wiping of Christ’s face by Veronica

The Seventh station recounts Christ’s Second Fall

The Eighth station remembers the grief of the holy women

The Ninth station recounts Christ’s third fall

The Tenth station is the stripping of Christ garments

The Eleventh station reminds us of Christ’s horrible torment of being nailed to the cross

The Twelfth station is Christ’s crucifixion on the cross

The Thirteenth station is the removal of Christ from the cross

The Fourteenth station is the sealing of the tomb

Commentary

As one can see, the stations carry deep and meditative thoughts regarding Christ’s death.  Much of it stems from Scripture.  In this way, both Catholics and Protestants can find common ground in their Christian faith in celebrating and meditating upon these divine mysteries.  They feed the soul through scripture itself and also remind the soul of the great price Christ paid on the cross.  This is also why the stations are so beautiful as an aide to the suffering.

The stations show Christ as the ultimate example of accepting difficulty and hardship and showing obedience to God’s will.  They show the love of many towards Christ during His death and also show the pain of Mary, a mother, over the cruel death of her Son.  The lessons from the Stations and application to them to difficulty in life are without equal.

The stations bring us to the Holy Land, they take us to the heart of Mary, and help us appreciate the beauty and love of God through His death on the cross.  The stations allow us the honor to walk with Christ and to accompany Him and offer Him worship.  It teaches us the humility of Christ, the obedience of Christ, and the love of Christ.  It shows us the power of suffering in a fallen world and how Christ could turn death into life.

From a practical stand point, it helps us face our own crosses and Calvary and shows us to turn to Christ for help in offering our own cross in this life.

How many can learn from Christ through the Stations?

Wrongly accused?

Carrying unfair burden

Losing a son

Accepting one’s cross

Forgiving one’s enemies

Dying for a friend

Displaying humility and dignity in evil situations

In counseling, the bereaved and persecuted can find solace in the Stations while they mediate upon the sorrows of Christ.  Christ as the ultimate example, not only died for our sins, but also taught us through His behavior during His passion how to face evil in this world.

We learn through the Stations, the obedience, humility and love Christ possessed in His heart.

 

Conclusion

It is very recommended that all Christians participate in the celebration of the stations both communally and individually.  It is an act of adoration and thanksgiving to Christ but also a beautiful way to learn and understand the true meaning of Christian suffering.

Whether Catholic, Protestant or non -denominational, the worship of Christ through the meditation upon the Stations is a universal Christian tradition for all to share as Christians in one Baptism.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.  Those who have already earned the basic Grief Counseling Certification and work in ministry are excellent candidates to earn this secondary certification in Grief Counseling.  The certification captures the unique perspective Christianity has on grief and how Christian Counselors, spiritual advisors, pastors, ministers and priests can better help Christians spiritually grieve in this fallen world.

Additional Resources

“History of the Stations of the Cross”. The Passionists. 2020. Access here

“Stations of the Cross”. Francis of Assisi. My Catholic Life! A journey of personal conversion!. Access here

“Praying Stations of the Cross, a Primer for Protestants”. Selah Center.  April 9th, 2022. Access here

“Four Reasons to Pray the Stations of the Cross Daily”. Philip Kosloski. Access here

 

Christian Grief Counseling Video on the Story of Job and Loss

Suffering in Christianity is transformative.  Through Christ, the Redeemer and Suffering Servant, suffering and death was forever altered.  Through death is resurrection and life over sin.  The story of Job is a prefigurement of Christ, or one who suffers without cause.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Grief Counselor

 

Please also review the video below

Grief Christian Counseling Article on Good Friday’s Suffering of Jesus and Mary

The suffering and loss experienced by the Blessed Virgin on Good Friday is beyond the grief any mother should ever endure.   She suffered a spiritual martyrdom as her Son was crucified for the sins of the world.

The combined sorrows of Mary and Jesus, offered to the Father through Christ. Please also review our Grief Christian Counseling Training
The combined sorrows of Mary and Jesus, offered to the Father through Christ.
Please also review our Grief Christian Counseling Training

The grief of Mary and Jesus and Christ’s death are remembered during Good Friday and remind us the power of sacrifice.  Jesus was able to turn death into life and grief into joy.  This teaches the Christian to endure hardships and trials and offer them to the Father through our high priest, Jesus Christ.

Mary’s grief and loss also have immense value.  She offered her pain to Jesus and through her intimate suffering with him played a key role in our salvation.  Mary was not the source of our salvation, but her suffering and offering of her Son was pivotal in our redemption.

Eve played a critical role in our fall but was not the reason, like so, Mary, the New Eve, plays a critical role in our salvation.  She reflects and plays the role of Eve, as Christ is our new Adam.

In this, as Christians, while we reflect on the sorrows of Christ, we can also in good faith, reflect on the sorrows of His mother.  By doing so, all is reflected to Christ, as we meditate on the sufferings of mother and Son, New Eve and New Adam, immaculate and sacred hearts of both Jesus and Mary

Please also review our Grief Christian Counseling Program and see if it matches the needs of your ministry in Christian Counseling those in grief.

 

Christian Grief Counseling Article on Mourning a Loss Through Christ

Short article on how Christians should face the death of a loved one.  Christians are not immune to grief and loss but share a special bond with Christ in suffering.  Christ alleviates our crosses by helping us carry them because he experienced suffering himself.  Through this unique bond, the Christian can offer all loss and pain to Christ who in turn can offer it to the Father.  Grief has the potential to be a transforming event in a Christian’s life like all suffering.  It can retain spiritual value when tied to Jesus Christ.

Christians grieve no differently emotionally but spiritually through Christ they can offer it to God
Christians grieve no differently emotionally but spiritually through Christ they can offer it to God

The article, “How Should Christians Approach the Death of a Loved One?” by Megan Bailey investigates closer how Christians deal with the death of a loved one.  The article states,

The pain of a loved one is something we all must face at some point in our lives. While grief is an expected response to a significant loss, the unfamiliar emotions that arise can lead to feelings of helplessness, fear and isolation. As Christians, we can find hope in God and use Him as a source of comfort.

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Christian Grief Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional needs.

 

Christian Grief Counseling Certification Article on Grief and the Holy Family

Good article on grief and how love and grief in this fallen world are so entangled.  The Holy Family plays a special role in this story of love and grief and serve as a paradigm for all families to emulate

The article, The Feast of the Holy Family: ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’ by Terrance Klein states,

“If we have lived long at all, we know that no one can love us like family, and no one can hurt us like family. And this is as true of the Holy Family as it is of our own. Indeed, pondering the Holy Family reveals the depth of Queen’s Elizabeth’s words, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Grief Counseling Program, as well as our Christian Grief Counseling Certification