Grief and Suffering

assorted color stained glass
Photo by Matthew T Rader on

I went to church yesterday. I did. It was the first time I stepped into any religious building since Peter died. Yesterday morning, I went to St. Peter’s in the Loop for mass. Even though I am a lapsed Catholic, I found myself drawn to the pageantry and the ritual of a mass. I’m not sure exactly why I was so moved to go, other than it was something knocking at my brain, my heart. Maybe, as someone suggested, I’m searching for different ways to find the meaning in all of this, in any of this. Maybe, I craved the blanket of my past to comfort me during the unfamiliar. Maybe, it is God at work. Probably, all of those reasons.

I was not feeling great yesterday morning. I felt achy, with the blahs and I knew a fever coming on, but I still wanted to go. I arrived ten minutes early and sat in the pew. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. I looked around at the statues,  the altar, and the people around me. I asked God if I could have some answers, pleading for a miracle to come my way to make these feelings all go away. I prayed for peace in life again, mine and my kids.

When the mass began, I rotely stood, murmured all the words I knew from years and years of practicing, and drifted off  – my old church tradition in this ADD mind of mine. When the readings began, they held no answers. They were about the end of the world. I scoffed at the irony of them and thought, Oh God, my world with Peter already ended.  I’m trying to pick up those pieces.

After the gospel, the priest gave his homily. I listened intently, leaning toward him with my good ear, to hear his lesson. He talked about how many times in history the world was predicted to end. He talked about living as if it was coming to end. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he spoke of suffering. This priest preached that God was not punitive. He said God gives us suffering so we may experience awakening and revitalization. Suffering brings us awareness and restoration. Huh, was the only thing in my normally active mind.

I sat with that for a time, even after the others around me rose and recited the Apostle’s Creed. Could this priest be correct? Could my own suffering serve as my own transformation? I mean, I have no choice but to change because what once was is totally, and utterly gone. And grief has brought me to places of strength I never thought I had. Death handed me an inescapable situation which I need to go through, slowly, with mistakes, and know a different me will emerge. Will my emergence be the good coming out of my own pain, my own grief?  Why was there even a need for any of this? Wasn’t I just fine without Grief and with Peter? Was this just another way of the Church trying to justify God’s existence through pain and suffering? Isn’t suffering of Jesus the basis of so many Christian religions? Is this a justification for their existence?

Questions collided around in my now achy head. I got up and left as the fever threatening to approach, now started to sting my eyes. Hey, I made it through half of it. Maybe next time it’ll be all of it. Perhaps at a different Church.

This morning, my ever-loving niece, sent me a quote. As I write this, I am not sure where it’s from, but part of it says “I am transfixed by grief, by growth”.  Again, I am reminded of loss, suffering, grief,  being placed alongside some type of growth, transformation. Was God trying to hammer this message home to me? Or is my constantly seeking, always looking, mind seeing something, not there in my state of grief?

I am not sure. I am not sure of any of this, which the reason for all my questions. I know my suffering, my grief, has no explanation. That’s the hardest part in all of this, not having answers for Peter’s loss in my life, my children’s lives, for my pain of his loss in all our lives.

Peter’s death was sudden and inexplicable. Perhaps eventually, I will understand how I was awakened, or revitalized in all of this, any of this. Perhaps I will celebrate at least some of my growth from it. Right now, all I know are two things about Suffering. Suffering has only awakened more questions in me. And, it has only made me miss Peter, so much, so often. I suffer from the loss of him in my life.