Hope and Comfort Amid Pain and Loss

Franciscan Care encompasses many ministries, those that participate in outreach like Hands of Hope, to those that support our friends and neighbors through physical, spiritual, or mental suffering like our TGH Eucharistic Ministers and Prison Ministry. But one of those ministries – Bereavement Care – offers hope and comfort amid the pain and loss of our loved ones.

Bereavement Care is an ongoing program of consolation available to all who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Our ministry seeks to offer strength, compassion, help, healing, and hope through prayerful reflection, meditative exercise, as well as an opportunity to share in our common bond of loss. Through monthly meetings, our program addresses the emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and cognitive aspects of the grieving process and offers our prayerful Catholic community’s love, support, perspective, and acceptance during the transitions that accompany loss.

One of our parishioners, Mark Louie, shares more about the Sacred Heart Bereavement Care group and how he came to understand love and loss and navigating the many different phases of grief.

“I grew up in Gilroy, California where I attended Glenview Elementary School. One of my most vivid memories of that time was the earthquake drill. An alarm would sound and Mrs. Newsome would calmly instruct us third-graders to position ourselves under our desks. These drills were done with such unruffled calm that we scarcely imagined how serious a quake might be. As Californians, we were familiar with tremors and minor earthquakes, but these were always of a sort that would only amuse a third grader. So, you might ask: What does this have to do with the death of a loved one? As I continued life past third grade into adulthood, there was a slow unruffled calm with which I encountered all of the events surrounding death. I had practiced the drills of family gatherings, church funerals, slow-moving motorcades, and burial site memorials so frequently that they had become too familiar. The calm regularity of earthquake drills likely made us assume we were ready for the “big one.” In the same way, I assumed I was ready for a closer encounter with death.

When my mom’s time to pass into God’s bright glory drew closer, we had not avoided the topic. We had talked about death and dying, and even had lengthy conversations about her end-of-life wishes. Sitting at mom’s bedside, I watched with a knowing calm, as she slipped from this life into the next. At the time, it seemed little more than a tremor in the universe I had come to know and expect. The first aftershock came at Easter time. Mom had always been there. Then followed Mother’s Day and Christmas, and a seemingly unrelenting series of tremors where silence and emptiness were felt.

In his essay, “Ecce Homo,” renowned geophysicist, Xavier Le Pichon, describes a California earthquake as a surface eruption borne of unseen forces 11 miles below. These deep forces are the unseen tensions that develop as one continental plate creeps forward, pressing against another over many years; until there is a sudden break – an earthquake. It is an apt description of the grief experience. Our lives creep along as a surface “normal” until the pressures between life before and after loss erupt as a sudden break. As with an earthquake, the human eruption’s severity is seldom predictable and those around us see only the outward effect; e.g. sudden tears, an angry outburst, a long period of silence, or perhaps self-imposed isolation. Le Pichon suggests that these human eruptions are the weak and imperfect parts that give way and allow us to grow; i.e., ever mindful of our loss, but moving ahead. It is fully normal that we hold much of the grief experience deep within ourselves, and it is fully normal that we will experience the tremor, the aftershock of loss.

In our parish’s Bereavement Ministry, we journey with you along the lines of those unseen tensions following the death of a loved one. We are waiting witness of God’s healing grace in the midst of life’s eruptions. We are present to the anguished hearts who search for comfort and simply wish to be heard and acknowledged. We meet the second Wednesday of the month. If you are a compassionate person and a good listener, please consider joining our team. We will have an information meeting in August. We hope you join us.”

Are you a compassionate person and a good listener? Please consider joining the Bereavement Care team. There will be a support team formation meeting on Wednesday, August 9th, at 7:00 pm in the San Damiano Center. Email Mark Louie for more information.

For more information about our Bereavement Ministry, click here.