"Big Four" Highlights


Holy Week Hope

Good Friday grief can be healthy and healing

By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D.

As we enter Holy Week and the Church leads us along the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, many people wonder – What is so “good” about Good Friday? In a culture that seeks avoid pain – both physical and emotional – at great consumer cost, can we see the reason for remembering and reenacting the crucifixion of Christ? Do we see the redemptive value of suffering?

The fact is, from a psychological standpoint, Holy Week can be healthy and healing for anyone who is going through great suffering, or even the ordinary “slings and arrows” of everyday life. The Church’s insistence each year that we pass through the death and resurrection of Jesus is, in fact, a sound psychological practice. It’s healthy for the spirit and the soul.

Good Grief

To grieve means to feel deep sadness over the loss of someone or something that is deeply loved or valued, and then to let go.

Grief over the loss of a loved one is an experience that everyone must go through. Others die and we will die. For some, grief comes unexpectedly, as for the parent whose child is killed in an auto accident. For others, it is slow and expected, as in the case of Alzheimer’s. Each type of grief comes with its own challenges.

Grief also comes in other forms. One can grieve over the loss of freedom and mobility, such as one who has been physically paralyzed or rendered blind by injury or disease. People can grieve over things they never had, such as one who grew up in an abusive home and grieves over never having had a safe, loving home. Job loss also brings grief.

In the process of grieving, one usually cycles through many emotions: sadness, anger, disbelief, confusion, frustration, fear. There are also questions that arise from grief: Why did God allow this to happen? Could I have prevented this? How am I going to live with this loss? These feelings and questions are normal.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone does it in his/her own way. Some people weep, others want to talk, and others may want to be left alone. Ultimately, grieving means letting go. Like the Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross, it means giving our loved ones over to God’s care. This takes time, patience and faith. It requires trusting that God is taking care of us and our loved ones. It means believing that God has a loving plan, even when we don’t understand it.

New Life

Initially, as we work through the grieving process, all we can see is pain and loss. However, as we work on letting go and giving our loved ones over to God, we begin to see that life goes on, and there are still many good things to be grateful for.

We can begin to enjoy life again and even laugh. It is here that we begin to experience Christ’s resurrection. Knowing that we can ultimately be reunited with our loved ones in heaven helps with this process. The questions that arose from the grief may still be there; however, obtaining the answers becomes less urgent. We come to the point where we can wait until we meet God face-to-face to have all the answers. Here is where grieving can actually deepen our faith and trust in God.

When the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph presented infant Jesus in the Temple, she was warned that a sword would pierce her heart. She took this seriously and pondered it. I believe this was to prepare her for the great suffering and grief she would experience over the passion and death of her Son. However, I also believe she knew that she would have to give her Son over to the God for his will to be fulfilled. This took great faith and courage in the midst of great suffering. However, Mary letting go of her Son allowed us to experience our redemption, purchased with Jesus’ death, and the new life that came with his resurrection. Thus, good can come from even the greatest loss. After Good Friday, the day of our redemption comes – Easter Sunday and new life in the resurrected Christ.

This Holy Week, we need to look at the great losses, sufferings and grief we experience and daily give them over to the Lord. By letting go of them, we can experience God’s great care for us and our loved ones. We may first need to go through a time of great sadness; however, this doesn’t last forever. As we come out of our darkness, we will begin to experience the joy of resurrection and new life. This is God’s Easter promise to us!

Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Pa. His website is maritalhealing.com. 

(Homepage photo credit: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)