God is the supreme healer

By Kristine Schroeder

Lessons Learned

Our red-bellied woodpecker finally appeared, a harbinger of hope in what has been a length of rainy, gray January days. I had not seen him all winter. For the past three years, he has been as regular as morning. Knowing nothing about bird life cycles, I assumed he had likely died. Then, there he was just as the sun also appeared after its absence. His arrival was a present, a gift reminding me that bleak or ho-hum days always hold a promise of better tomorrows.

There have been many difficulties and sadnesses this year mixed with the cloudy skies. Some, I am aware, is the natural result of aging. Some, unfortunately, have been the unexpected hand of fate. During such times, it is difficult to know how to bring comfort and hope to those who are suffering. 

Promises of better days often fall on deaf ears. In fact, those intended good thoughts may have the opposite effect making the grieving person feel guilty as if they only need to realize, “You will get through this,” or “God has a plan.” I can only imagine someone wanting to shout in reply, “And you know what that is?”

 Instead of helping, those words can leave a person feeling misunderstood, hurt, isolated or even angry. In his homily, Father Don Talafous said, “(The cross) is always there in the fact that our self is never totally accessible to another human being.” No one can completely understand the pain another person is experiencing. However, as caring people, our desire is to alleviate quickly the suffering of a loved one when, in reality, that is never within our power. Each of us must learn how to journey with the crosses we are given as well as travel with our loved ones in theirs.

 If we live any length of time, we all have seasons of sadness. During one such period, I initially avoided dealing with my feelings by keeping myself busy throughout the day. But pain is patient. She sits at the edge of our bed and waits for us in the quiet. Then she wakes us and shows us that we cannot escape so easily.

 After some nights of disrupted sleep, I shared my struggles with a wise friend, and she proffered some much-needed advice. “You cannot step around your troubles. You have to walk through them if you wish to eventually regain peace.” In other words, accepting our suffering and allowing ourselves the time to grieve whatever loss we are experiencing is beneficial. We cannot fix them alone. She was right.

 Avoiding sadness doesn’t alleviate it. Like weeds that pop up in a sidewalk, it will return. We need others to listen, to sit with us, to fill that empty chair at times for as long as it takes. Grief has no timeline. It is an individual process.

On the other hand, as someone who desires to be supportive, we need to not only bring a meal but offer to join our loved one at the table. Taking time out of our schedule to be with them reminds them that he or she is a priority. A call in the evening when loss often feels most acute says to those suffering that they are not alone. Also, we can invite them to pray with us or pray for them regularly. There are many ways we can be Christ to those who need our support. We cannot erase the void, but we can help fill it at times. 

I think that red-bellied woodpecker has probably been there all winter. It was me that wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes that’s how we are with God. And yet, our faith is important every minute of our lives. But, it is especially necessary in those moments when we feel no one can truly understand our hurt, our pain. To be a harbinger of hope to those suffering, we can nudge them “toward the one who knows and understands our hearts supremely, God who made us,” says Father Talafous. 

God loves us, and He knows our anguish. He waits to hear from us and heal us. Only God has the power “to turn our mourning into dancing.”