St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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/ Grief And Bereavement / When Someone You Love Dies
When Someone You Love Dies:


 By Father Robert E. Lucas

“It Can’t Be True!”

In a large American city, a man relates: "My son Nicholas was visiting friends a few miles away. My wife, Olga, didn't like him to go there. She was always nervous about the traffic. But he loved electronics and his friend had a workshop where he could get practical experience. I was at home in the city and my wife was away visiting with her family in the mid-West. `Nicholas will be home soon,' I thought to myself. Then suddenly the doorbell rang. `That is probably him, for sure.' It wasn't. It was instead the police and paramedics. `Do you recognize this driver's license?' the police officer nervously asked. `Yes, that belongs to my son, Nicholas.' `We've got bad news for you. There's been an accident, and.. .your son ... your son has been fatally injured.' My first reaction was `It can't be true!' That bombshell opened a wound in our hearts that is still healing, even years later."

Elsewhere, a man relates, "We were a happy family. There was Mary, my wife and our three children, Jonathan, David and Stephen, aged 13, 11, and 9 respectively. One day a few years ago, David came home complaining of severe head pains. We were baffled about what could be causing the problem, but not for long. Three hours later, he was dead. A cerebral hemorrhage snuffed out his life."

"David's death took place many years ago. Even so, the deep pain of that loss stays with us to this day. There is no way that parents can lose a child and not feel they have not lost something of themselves - regardless how much time passes or how many other children they have."

These two experiences, where parents lost children, illustrate how deep and lasting the wound is when a child dies. How true the words of a physician who wrote, `The death of a child is usually more tragic and traumatic than the death of another person because a child is the last person in the family expected to die ... The death of any child represents the loss of a future dream, relationships, experiences ... that have not yet been lived and enjoyed." And this sense of deep loss can also be applied to any expectant mother who has lost a baby through miscarriage.

A bereaved wife tries to explain, "My husband John had served as a medical aide in the Pacific theater during World War H. He saw and survived some terrible battles. He returned to the United States and a more tranquil life. Later he became a deacon in the Church. In his early 60's he began to have symptoms of a heart problem. He tried to lead an active life. Then, one day, he suffered a massive heart attack and died immediately. His loss was devastating. I never got to say good-bye. He was not just my husband, he was my best friend. We had shared some forty years of life together. Now it seemed that I had to face a special loneliness."

These are just a few of the thousands of tragedies that strike families throughout the world every day. As most grieving persons will tell you, when death takes your child, your husband, your wife, your parent, your friend, it is truly what the Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul called it, "...the last enemy..." 1 Corinthians 15.: 26. Often the first reaction to the dreadful news may be denial, "It can't be true! I don't believe it." Other reactions often follow, as we shall see.

Before we consider the feelings of grief, let us answer some important questions. Does death mean the end of a person? Is there any hope that we will see our loved ones again?


St. Paul the Apostle offered hope of relief from the last and final enemy, death. He tells us death is to be brought to nothing. "The last enemy to be destroyed is death" 1 Corinthians 15: 26. Why could St. Paul be so certain? Simply because he was taught by the One Who had been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you sir?" he asked. The voice answered, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do" Acts of the Apostles 9: 4 - 6. That is why St. Paul could personally witness, "Death came through a man; hence the resurrection of the dead comes through a man also. Just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will come to life again, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits and then, at his coming, all those who belong to him" 1 Corinthians 15: 21 - 23.

Our Lord was deeply grieved when He met a widow at Naim and beheld her dead son. The Bible account tells us, " he approached the gate of the town a dead man was being carried out, the only son of a widowed mother. A considerable crowd of townspeople were with her. The Lord was moved with pity upon seeing her and said to her, `Do not cry.' Then he stepped forward and touched the litter; at this, the bearers halted. He said, `Young man, I bid you get up.' The dead man sat up and began to speak. Then Jesus gave him back to his mother" Luke 7: 12 - 15. The reaction of the bystanders was understandably mixed, "fear seized them all and they began to praise God. `A great prophet has risen among us,' they said and, `God has visited his people'" Luke 7: 16.

Jesus is moved with pity, so He raises the poor widow's son! Imagine what this portends in the future for us who believe in Him!

There in front of eyewitnesses, our Lord performs an unforgettable and loving demonstration of His heavenly power. It was a partial manifestation of the Resurrection He already predicted some time prior to this event, a restoration to everlasting life with the Holy-Trinity. "This is God's dwelling place among men. He shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them" Revelation 21: 3.

On that occasion, Jesus said, "Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and rise up" John 5: 28; "What we await are new heavens and a new earth" 2 Peter 3: 13.

Among the innumerable eye witnesses to the glorious Resurrection of Christ was Peter the beloved Apostle who accompanied Jesus on His travels. They actually heard the risen and triumphant Saviour speak by the Sea of Galilee. The account tells us, "Come and eat your meal," Jesus told them. Not one of the disciples presumed to inquire, `Who are you?' for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This marked the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after being raised from the dead" John 21: 12 -14.

That is why St. Peter was able to write with utter conviction, "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he who in his great mercy gave us new birth; a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." 1 Peter 1: 3.

The apostle St. Paul expressed his confident hope when he said, "I believe all that is written in the law and the prophets and I have the same hope in God as these men have that there is to be a resurrection of the good and the wicked alike" Acts of the Apostles 24: 14, 15.

Every believer in Christ, therefore, has the solid hope of encountering their faithful loved ones once again in paradise in the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

If you are grieving over loved ones, is it normal to grieve this way? How can I live with my grief? What can others do to help me respond as a believer to grief? And principally, what does God's revelation in Scripture say about hope for the faithful dead? What is a natural reaction to the death of a dear loved one? What did Jesus do for the widow at Naim? What promise regarding the faithful dead did Jesus give? Why could SS. Peter & Paul be certain there would be a resurrection of the dead? What questions deserve an answer?

Is It Normal To Feel This Way?

A bereaved person tells us, "As a child, I was taught not to express my feelings in public. I can remember my father, a former military man, saying to me through clenched teeth, `Don't cry!' when something caused me pain or distress. Having grown up in a family where feelings were not openly shown, it was difficult for me to weep when my father died, even though I felt a tremendous loss."

In some cultures, people express their feelings openly. Whether they are happy or sad, others readily know how they feel. On the other hand, in some parts of the world, men especially have been conditioned to hide their feelings, to suppress their emotions and to keep a stiff upper lip and not wear their hearts on their sleeves. But when you suffer the loss of a dear one in death, is it somehow wrong to express your grief? What does our God say about these circumstances in our lives? Does the Scripture speak of similar circumstances? How is a believer to conduct himself?


Those whom God called to be His people as witnesses to the entire world, the Hebrews, were an expressive people. The Holy Spirit Who inspired the Scriptures, guided the authors to record many examples of individuals who openly showed their grief, testifying to the frailty of man's human nature and the pain experienced when someone he loves finally dies. King David mourned the loss of his murdered son Amnon. In fact, he "...wept very bitterly" 2 Samuel 14: 36. He even grieved at the loss of his treacherous son, Absalom, who tried to usurp the throne. Scripture teaches us, "The king was shaken, and went up to the room over the city gate to weep. He said as he wept, "My son Absalom! Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom my son, my son" 2 Samuel 19: 1. Like any normal father, David mourned and grieved. He expressed his loss and his pain. And how many times have parents wished they could have died in place of their children! This is practically a universal sentiment! It seems in the logical mind of parents so unnatural for a child to die before them.

How did our Lord Jesus Christ react to the death of His friend Lazarus? He openly wept on nearing his tomb. "Jesus began to weep" John 11: 35. Later, we have related for our spiritual benefit how Mary Magdalene wept as she neared the sepulcher of Christ, "...Mary stood weeping beside the tomb" John 20: 11. It is entirely true, an Orthodox Christian with an understanding of Christ's teaching and promise of the Resurrection hope does not grieve inconsolably as some do who do not have a clear basis for their faith commitment regarding the destiny of those who are called to their eternal reward. But as an ordinary human being, with normal sentiments of love and respect, the true believer, even with the hope of Resurrection, does grieve and does mourn the loss of any loved one. "We would have you be clear about those who sleep in death, brothers, otherwise, you might yield to grief, like those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with him from the dead those who have fallen asleep believing in him" 1 Thessalonians 4: 14.


But you will ask, what about correct reaction today? Do you feel it difficult to express your feelings? What do grief counselors recommend? How does our blessed Church react? Contemporary views which have a sound basis in truth echo God's revelation to us. We are taught we should express our grief, not repress it. This reminds us of the faithful men of old, such as Job, David and Jeremiah, whose expressions of grief fill pages of God's revelation to us. They certainly did not battle their legitimate feelings, giving expression instead to the sentiments God placed in their heart and soul. They did not unhealthily bottle up their feelings. Therefore, it is not wise to cut yourself off from people. "In estrangement, one seeks pretexts ..." Proverbs 18: 1. Of course, mourning is expressed in different ways by different cultural orientations, depending almost always on the depth and prevalence of religious belief and commitment. Orthodox believers, however, do not espouse or assume any traditions based on superstitions that spring from false ideas about the immortal soul, such as the dubious theory of reincarnation which has no basis in God's revelation to us about our true nature. "For the living know that they have to die, but the dead no longer know anything" Ecclesiastes 9: 5; "Only the one who sins shall die" Ezekiel 18: 4; "Just as it is appointed that men die once, after death, be judged" Hebrews 9: 27.

This is supported by the life practice of Anne, a young mother who lost her baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Her husband commented, "The surprising thing was that neither Anne nor I cried at the funeral. Everyone else was weeping." To this, Anne responded, "Yes, but I have done plenty of crying for both of us after the tragedy, when I was finally alone one day in the house. I literally cried all day long. But I believe it helped me. I felt better for it. I had to mourn the loss of my baby. I really do believe that you should let grieving people weep. Although it may be a reaction to grief for some to say, `Don't cry,' that approach does not really help at all."


How have some reacted when they seem desolated by the loss of a loved one? Consider the example of Elizabeth. She knows how it feels to lose a baby. She had five miscarriages. Now she was expecting again. So when a car accident forced her to be hospitalized, she was understandably worried. Two weeks later she went into labor, prematurely. Shortly afterward little Faith was born, weighing just over two pounds. "I was so excited," Elizabeth recalls. "I was finally a mother."

But her happiness was very short-lived. Four days later, little Faith died. Elizabeth recalls, "I felt so empty. My motherhood was taken away from me. I felt incomplete. It was so painful to return home to the room we prepared for Faith and look at the little undershirts I bought for her. For the next couple of months I relived the day of her birth. I didn't want to have anything to do with anyone, simply to be alone with her in my grief."

An extreme reaction? It may be hard for others to understand, but those who like Elizabeth, have gone through it explain that they grieved for their baby just as they would for someone who had lived for some time. Long before a child is born, they say, it s loved by its parents. There is a special bonding with the mother. When that baby dies, -he mother feels that a real person has been lost. And that is what others need to understand.


Another mother expressed her feelings when told that her six year old son had suddenly died because of a congenital heart problem. "I went through a series of reactions, numbness, disbelief, guilt, and anger toward my husband and the physician for not realizing how serious his condition was."

Anger can be another symptom of grief. It may be anger at doctors and nurses, feeling that they should have done more in caring for the departed soul. Or it may be anger at friends and relatives, who, it seems, say or do the wrong thing. Some get angry at the departed one for neglecting his health. Nina recalls, "I remember being angry with my husband because I knew it could have been different. He had been very sick, but he had ignored the doctor's warnings." And sometimes, there is. anger at the departed one because of the burdens that his or her death brings upon the survivor. Some feel guilty because of anger, that is, they may condemn themselves because they feel angry. Others blame themselves for their loved one's death. "He wouldn't have died," they convince themselves, "if only I had made him go to the doctor sooner" or "made him see another specialist" or "made him take better care of his health."

For others, the guilt goes beyond that, especially if their loved one died suddenly and unexpectedly. They start recalling the times when they became angry with the departed one or had argued with them. Or they may feel that they were not really all that they should have been to the deceased.

The long grieving process of many mothers supports what many experts say, that the loss of a child leaves a permanent gap in the life of the parents, particularly the mother.


The word "process" does not imply that grief has any fixed schedule or program. Grief reactions can overlap and take varying lengths of time, depending upon the individual. This listing is not complete. Other reactions may also be manifested. The following are some of the symptoms of grief that one might experience. Early reactions: Initial shock, disbelief, denial; emotional numbness, guilt feelings, anger. Acute grief may include: Memory loss and insomnia; extreme fatigue; abrupt changes of mood; flawed judgment and thinking; bouts of crying; appetite changes, with resultant weight loss or gain; a variety of symptoms of disturbed health; lethargy; reduced work capacity; hallucinations of feeling, hearing, seeing the deceased; in the loss of a child, irrational resentment of your spouse. Leveling-of period: Sadness with nostalgia; more pleasant memories of the deceased, even associated with humor.


Though she already had other children, Rachel was eagerly looking forward to the birth of her next child. Even before its birth, it teas a child she already talked to, played with and dreamed of. The bonding process between mother and unborn child was strong and powerful. She continues, "Mary was the unborn child who kicked the books off my stomach, kept me awake at night. I can very vividly recall the first kicks, like gentle loving nudges. Every time she moved, I was filled with such overwhelming love. I knew her so well that I knew when she was in pain, when she was sick."

Rachel continues her account: "The doctor wouldn't believe me until it was too late. He told me to stop worrying. I believe I felt her die. She just suddenly turned over violently. The next day she was dead."

Rachel's experience is no isolated event. According to statistics, about one million women a year in the United States alone suffer an unsuccessful pregnancy. Of course, the figure worldwide is much greater.

People fail to realize that a miscarriage or stillbirth is a tragedy for a woman and one she remembers, perhaps all her life. For example, Sarah, now up in years, recalls her miscarriages and especially remembers her stillborn baby that was alive into the ninth month and was delivered weighing 13 pounds. She carried it dead inside her for the last two weeks. She said, "To give birth to a dead baby is a terrible experience for a mother."

The reactions of these pained mothers is not always understood, even by other women, other mothers. A woman who lost her child by miscarriage wrote, "What I have learned in a most painful way was that before this happened to me, I really had no idea of what my friends had to bear. I had been as insensitive and ignorant toward them as I now experience people are to me."

Another problem of the grieving mother is the impression that her husband may not feel the loss as she does. One wife expressed it this way: "I was totally disappointed in my husband at the time. As far as he was concerned, there really was no pregnancy. He could not experience the grief that I was going through. He was very sympathetic to my fears but not to my grief."

This reaction is perhaps natural for a husband because he does not undergo the same physical and emotional bonding that his pregnant wife does. Nevertheless, he suffers a loss. And it is vital that husband and wife realize that they are suffering together, although in different ways. They should share their grief. If the husband hides it, his wife may think he is insensitive. So share your tears, thoughts, and embraces. Show you need each other as never before. Yes, husbands, show your understanding and empathy!



Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which usually occurs in babies aged one to six months, is the term used when healthy babies die suddenly without any explicable cause. In some cases it is believed that the possibility can be avoided if the baby is put to sleep on its back or side, but not face down. However, no sleeping position will prevent every case of SIDS.

The sudden death of a baby is a devastating tragedy. One day an apparently normal, healthy baby fails to wake up. This is totally unexpected, for who imagines that any infant or child will die before the parents do? We naturally have a baby to live, not expire. A baby that has become the center of a mother's boundless love is suddenly the focus of her unbounded grief.

Guilt feelings begin to flood in and even overwhelm. The parents may feel responsible for the death, as if it were due to some neglect. They ask themselves, "What could we have done to prevent it?" In some cases, the husband, without any foundation, might even blame his wife. When he went to work, the baby was alive and healthy. When he returned home, it died in its crib! What was the wife doing? Where was she at the time? Was she neglectful? These plaguing questions have to be cleared up so that they do not put a serious strain on the marriage.

Unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstances caused the tragedy. Scripture teaches us, "Again I saw under the sun that the race is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the valiant, nor a livelihood by the wise, nor riches by the shrewd, nor favor by the experts; for a time of calamity comes to all alike ... the children of men are caught when the evil time falls suddenly upon them" Ecclesiastes 9: 11, 12.

How can others help when a family loses a baby? One bereaved mother responded: "One friend came and cleaned my home without my having to ask. Others made meals for us. Some just helped by giving me a heartfelt hug, no words, just a hug. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to have to explain over and again what happened. I didn't need prying questions, as if I had failed to do something. I was the mother. I would have done anything to save my baby." Perhaps one of the most comforting and reassuring things believers can do in such circumstances is to pray for the parents and afflicted family.


The loss of a marriage partner is another kind of a trauma, especially if both led a very active life together. It can mean the end of a whole life-style that they shared, of travel, work, entertainment, and fulfilling interdependence.

Anne explains what happened when her husband suddenly died of a heart attack. "For the first week, I was in a state of emotional numbness, as if I had stopped functioning. I couldn't even smell or taste, yet my sense of logic continued in a detached way. Because I had been with my husband while they were trying to stabilize him using CPR and medications, I did not suffer the usual denial symptoms. Nevertheless, there was an intense feeling of frustration, as if I was watching a car go over a cliff and there was nothing I could about it."

Did she weep? "Of course I did, especially when I read the scores of sympathy cards I had received. I cried with each one. It helped me face up to the rest of the day. But nothing could help when I was asked repeatedly how I felt. Obviously, I was miserable."

What helped Anne to live through her grief? "Without realizing it, I unconsciously made the decision to go on with my life," she says. "However, what still hurts me is when I remember that my husband, who loved life so much, is not here to enjoy it with me."


Those who grieve the loss of a loved one should not permit others to dictate how you should feel or act. The grieving process works differently with everyone. It is a uniquely individual and personal thing. Others may think - and let you know how they think - you are grieving too much or not grieving enough. Forgive them and forget about their observations for you. By trying to force yourself into a mold created by others or by society as a whole, you stunt your own spiritual growth toward restored emotional maturity.

Most certainly, different people handle their grief in different ways. It is not suggested that one way is necessarily better than another for every person. However, danger arises when stagnation sets in, when the grief-stricken person is unable to become reconciled to the reality of the situation. Then help might be needed from compassionate friendly believers. Our Lord teaches us, "He who is a friend is always a friend, and a brother is born for the time of stress" Proverbs 17: 17. So, no one should be afraid to seek help, to talk and pray and to weep.

How is the grieving. of some people affected by their culture? What examples do we have in God's revelation to us of those who openly grieved? How have some reacted to the loss of a loved one? How have you reacted in similar circumstances? What makes the loss of a spouse a different kind of experience? How does the grieving process work? Is it wrong to grieve? What are some aspects of the grieving process? What special circumstances affect parents in sudden infant death? How are many mothers affected by a miscarriage or a stillbirth?

Grief is a normal human reaction to loss, and it is not wrong for grief to be obvious to others. But further questions need answers. "How can I live with my grief? Is it normal to experience feelings of guilt and anger? How should I deal with these reactions? What can help me to endure the loss and the grief?



"I felt a great deal of pressure on me to hold in and control my feelings," explains Michael in recalling his father's death. To Michael, suppressing his grief was the manly thing to do. Yet he later realized that he was overwhelmingly wrong. So when

Michael's friend lost his grandfather with whom he had been particularly close, Michael already knew what to do. He says, "A couple years ago, I would have patted him on the back and said, `Be a man.' Now, however, I touched his arm and embraced him and said, `Feel however you need to feel. It will help you to deal with your loss and your emotions. If you want me to go, I'll go. If you want me to stay, I'll stay. But do not be afraid to feel your loss and express yourself."'

Helen also felt a great deal of pressure to hold in her feelings when her husband died. "I was so worried about being a good example to others, especially my children," she recalls, "that I did not permit myself the normal feelings. But I eventually learned that trying to be a pillar of strength for others wasn't helping me. I began analyzing my situation and saying, "Cry if you can cry. Do not try to be too strong. Permit your grief to drain out of your system in a healthy way."

So both Michael and Helen both recommend, Let yourself grieve. And they are totally correct! Why? Because grieving is a necessary emotional and spiritual release. Expressing and accepting and perhaps redirecting your feelings can relieve the pressure you are under in the death of someone you love. The natural expression of emotions, if coupled with understanding and accurate information, let you put your loss in proper perspective. If studied carefully, even meditated upon, the hymnology of Great and Holy Friday as well as the Matins Service of Great and Holy Saturday express very profoundly and lovingly as well as movingly the grief and loss experienced by friends and believers at the death of Christ on the Cross and His subsequent entombment. These can be a great aid in spiritual and emotional recovery and prayer.

Of course, not everyone expresses grief in the same way. And factors such as whether the loved one died suddenly or death came after a long illness might have some bearing on the emotional reaction of the survivors. But one thing appears certain. Repressing and attempting to hide or bury one's grieving feelings can be harmful physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is far healthier and wiser to release your grief. How? The Scripture contains some practical advice. Heavenly wisdom is being shared with believers.


Talking and expressing one's feelings can be a helpful release. Following the death of all ten of his children, as well as some other personal tragedies, the ancient patriarch Job said: "Perish the day on which I was born ... why did I not perish at birth ... or why was I not buried away like an untimely birth, like babes that have never seen the light...?" Job 3: 3, 11, 16; "I will speak from the bitterness of my soul" Job 10: 1. Job could no longer restrain his pain and anguish. He expressed his concerns and he needed to be let loose; he had to speak. His expression also took the form of devoted reality and prayer, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" Job 1: 21. Further God's Word tells us, "In all this Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God" Job 1: 22. Sorrow should be given words because grief that does not speak whispers over the beleaguered heart and attempts to break it.

So important is it to recognize the horror of the loss of a child, our blessed Church recalls prayerfully the massacre of the Holy Innocents following the Nativity of our Lord. Those who suffer similar losses in their personal lives by having children taken away from them can recall the loving concern of divine providence for their inexplicable loss. "What was said through Jeremiah the prophet was then fulfilled; `A cry was heard at Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel bewailing her children; no comfort for her, since they are no more" Matthew 2: 17, 18. The profound pain and emptiness is not without purpose or reason, however mysterious it appears at the time. At another time, will be heard words of promise, "Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward, says the Lord.. .there is hope for your future..." Jeremiah 31: 16, 17.

Putting feelings and experiences into expressive words often makes it easier to understand and deal with them. And if the listener is another bereaved person who has effectively dealt with his or her own loss you may be able to gain some practical and prayerful suggestions and insights on how to respond and cope. When her child died, one mother explained why it helped to talk to another woman who had faced a similar loss: "To know that somebody else had gone through the same thing, had come out whole from it, and that she was still surviving and finding some sort of order in her life again was strengthening and affirming to the."

What if you are not comfortable talking about your feelings? Following the death of Saul and Jonathan, David composed a highly emotional dirge in which he poured out his grief. This mournful composition eventually became part of the written record of God's revelation to us. "Saul and Jonathan, beloved and cherished, separated neither in life nor in death, swifter than eagles, stronger than lions! Women of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and in finery ...I grieve for you Jonathan my brother! Most dear to me have you been; more precious have I held love for you than love for women." 2 Samuel 1: 17 - 27. And of course, the lamentation of the prophet Jeremiah over Josiah was inspiring to those who read it. "Jeremiah also composed a lamentation over Josiah" 2 Chronicles 35: 25. So, we can compose a poem of sorts, a panegyric about our loved departed souls which may be of help in overcoming our lamentable grief and loss. One widow reported that she would sit down and write out her feelings and then days later read them over because she found this a helpful release.

Whether by talking or by writing, communicating your feelings can help release grief. It can also help clear up misunderstandings. A bereaved mother explains, "My husband and I heard other couples that got divorced after losing a child and we did not want that happening to us. So any time we felt angry, wanting to blame each other, we would talk it over. I think we really grew closer together by doing that." Thus, letting your injured feelings be known can help dispel part of the problem, at least. It can assist in understanding that even though you may be sharing the same loss, others may grieve differently, at their own pace and in their own way.

Something else that can facilitate the release of grief is crying. We have been taught there is an appointed time for everything, even "...a time to weep..." Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4. Surely the death of someone we love brings on such a time. Shedding tears of grief appears to be a necessary part of the healing process. One young woman explains how a close friend helped her cope when her mother died. She recalls, "My friend was always there for me. She cried with me. She talked with me. I could just be so open with my emotions, and that was important to me. I did not have to be embarrassed by crying, "...weep with those who weep." Romans 12: 15. Nor should any believer feel ashamed of tears. As we have seen, salvation history is filled with men and women of deep and abiding faith, including our Saviour Himself, who openly shed tears of grief without any apparent embarrassment. "...and the Egyptians mourned him for seventy days" Genesis 50:3; "They mourned and wept and fasted for Saul and his son Jonathan..." 2 Samuel 1: 12; "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who accompanied her also weeping, he was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotion ... Jesus began to weep..." John 11: 33, 35.

Those who grieve will find that for a time the emotions will be somewhat unpredictable. Tears may flow without much advance warning. One widow found that supermarket shopping, something she had often done with her husband, could reduce her to tears, especially, when, out of habit, she reached for items that had been her husband's favorites. Be patient with yourself. And do not feel that you have to hold back the tears. Let-them flow. Remember they are a natural and necessary part of grieving.


Some have feelings of guilt after losing a loved one in death. This may help to explain the acute grief of the faithful man Jacob when he was led to believe that his son Joseph had been killed by a vicious wild beast, "A wild beast has devoured him! Joseph has been torn to pieces! ... Though his sons and daughters tried to console him, he refused all consolation" Genesis 37: 33, 35. Jacob himself had sent out his loving son to check on the welfare of his brothers. Likely Jacob was plagued with guilt feelings, such as "Why did I sent Joseph out alone? Why did I send him out into an area abounding with wild beasts?"

There are some who feel some real or imagined neglect on their part contributed to the death of their loved one. Realizing that guilt is a normal reaction can be helpful in itself. Here again, do not necessarily keep such feelings to yourself. Talking about- how guilty you feel can provide a much needed release and healing.

Realize though, that no matter how much we love another person, we cannot control or direct his or her life, nor can we prevent "...a time of calamity..." Ecclesiastes 9: 11, from befalling those we love. Besides, no doubts your motives were not bad. For example, in not making a doctor's appointment sooner; did you intend for your loved one to get sick and die? Of course not! Then are you really guilty of causing that one's death? Emphatically not!

One mother learned to deal with the guilt after her daughter died in a car accident. She explains: "I felt guilty that I had sent her out. But I came to realize that it was ridiculous to feel that way. There was nothing wrong with sending her with her father to run an errand. It was simply just a terrible accident."

"But there are so many things I wish I had -said or done," you may say. True, but who of us can say that we have been a perfect father, mother or child? The Bible reminds us, "All of us falls short in many aspects" James 3: 2; "...just as through one man sin entered the world and with sin death, death thus coming to all men inasmuch as all sinned..." Romans 5: 12. Believers must accept the fact none of us are perfect. Concentrating on all kinds of "ifs", "only's" or "but's" will not change anything, but it may well slow recovery.

If you have sound reasons to believe your guilt is real, not imagined, then consider the most important factor of all in allaying guilt, which is approaching God's forgiveness in the sacramental Mystery of Reconciliation. See your priest confessor and discuss the matter with him, remembering, "If you, 0 Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered" Psalms 130: 3, 4. With your spiritual father's counseling, inspire sorrow within your heart and soul and seek God's forgiveness with repentance. You cannot return to the past and change anything. You can, though, implore God's forgiveness for past mistakes and sins and clear your conscience. With the invocation of the absolution prayer of the priestly confessor, coupled with perfect contrition, God forgives you. Then what? Should you not also forgive yourself? "He who conceals his sin prospers not, but he who confesses and forsakes them obtains mercy" Proverbs 28: 13; "But if we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all wrong" 1 John 1: 9.


Do you also feel rather angry, perhaps with doctors, nurses, friends, or even the one who died? Realize that this too is a common reaction to loss in death. Perhaps your anger is the natural accompaniment of the hurt you feel. One writer said, "Only by becoming aware of the anger - not acting on it but knowing that you feel it - can you be free of its destructive effect."

It may also help to express or share the anger. How? We are warned that prolonged anger is dangerous. "The patient man shows much good sense, but the quick-tempered man displays folly at its height. A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones" Proverbs 14: 29, 30. You may find comfort in talking about it with an understanding friend. And some find that vigorous exercise when you are angry is a helpful release. "If you are angry, let it be without sin. The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you" Ephesians 4: 25, 26.

While it is important to be open and honest about your feelings, a word of caution is in order. There is a big difference between expressing your feelings and dumping them on others, or using the occasion to insult or belittle or demean others. There is no need to blame others for your anger or frustration. So be mindful of talking out your feelings, but not in a hostile way. "To be a fool's parent is grief for a man" Proverbs 17: 21; "Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who make it a friend shall eat its fruit" Proverbs 18: 21. There is a preeminent aid in responding to and coping with grief and it comes from and has its Source in our Creator.


We are reminded, "When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. The Lord is close to the broken hearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him" Psalms 34: 18 - 20. More than anything else, a living faith relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can assist in coping with the death of someone you love. Applying and living all that has been taught by God's Word is a great strength.

In addition, the value of prayer should not be underestimated. The liturgical life of the Church, particularly in prayers for departed souls can uplift the living. The funeral service which emphasizes our community life with the Trinity is strengthening and affirming. Prayers on the fortieth day and subsequent memorial services keep the memory of our beloved departed in our own midst while they praise God and benefit the departed soul. Asking our spiritual father to insert the name and make commemorations of our departed souls in the Divine Liturgy enriches all. who participate. Have we not been instructed, "Throw your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you" Psalms 55: 22? If simply talking with a sympathetic friend helps and assists you, how much more will pouring out your heart and soul in devoted prayer to "...the God of all comfort..." 2 Corinthians 1: 3, help you! You can unite yourself spiritually to the departed soul by offering intercessory prayers for their blessed eternal repose to our God.

It is not simply that prayer makes us feel better. God, Who hears our prayer, promises to impart the Holy Spirit to meet our every need. "If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" Luke 11: 13; "To you we owe our hymn of praise, 0 God of Sion; to you must vows be fulfilled, you who hear our prayers. To you must all flesh come, because of wicked deeds" Psalms 65: 2, 3. And God's Holy Spirit will equip the faithful devout seeker with "...its surpassing power..." 2 Corinthians 4:7, to triumphantly go from one day to the next. We must never forget our God does assist, when sincerely invited and seriously asked, to endure and overcome any and every problem we face. A faithful woman insists that her prayer life helped her through the loss of her child. Persistent prayer is vital. "The Lord is near. Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude. Then God's own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" Philippians 4: 6, 7; "Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial; persevere in prayer" Romans 12: 12.

The help that God supplies does make a significant difference. Particularly is it important to continue faithfully in Eucharistic life because it is our association with the eternal kingdom into which we pray our beloved departed soul has been truly called. It is an authentic way of associating and identifying with our beloved departed soul because it is nourishment of the kingdom. St. Paul teaches us, "He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from him" 2 Corinthians 1: 4.

Why is it important to grieve? How can you release your grief? How does God's revealed Word help you deal with feelings of guilt and anger? In what way can a faithful relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit help you cope with the death of a loved one? What are some practical suggestions for coping with grief? In what way does worthy Eucharistic reception guide us in spiritual security?


Rely on friends. Do not hesitate to let others help if they offer to do so and you can really use some assistance. Understand it may be their way of showing you how they feel; perhaps they cannot. find the right words, so they wish to express it in doing charitable deeds. "Some friends bring ruin on us, but a true friend is more loyal than a brother" Proverbs 18: 24.

Take care of your health. Grieving can wear you out, especially in the beginning. Your body needs sufficient healthful exercise, and proper nourishment more than ever. A periodic checkup by your family physician might be in order.

Postpone major decisions. If possible, wait for at least some time until you are thinking more clearly before you decide such things as whether to sell your home or to change your job. "The plans of the diligent are sure of profit, but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty" Proverbs 21: 5. One widow recalled that several days after her husband died, she gave away many of his personal possessions. Later, she realized that she had given away mementos she treasured, and which should have remained in the family as testaments of love for the children.

Be patient with yourself. Grief often lasts longer than most people realize. Yearly reminders of the loved one may renew the pangs of grief. Special pictures, songs, even smells, can trigger the tears. The bereaved may swing dramatically and swiftly from one feeling state to another, and avoidance of reminders of the deceased may alternate with deliberate cultivation of memories of some periods of time. Our Lord's counsel should be remembered, "...your thoughts should be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise" Philippians 4: 8.

Make allowances for others. Try- to be patient with others. Realize it is awkward for them. Not knowing what to say, they may clumsily say the wrong thing. "Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you" Colossians 3: 12, 13.

Beware of using medication or alcohol to cope with your grief. Any relief offered by drugs or alcohol is temporary at best. Medications should be taken only under a physician's supervision. But be very careful; many substances are addictive. In addition, these may delay the grieving process. A pathologist warns: "The tragedy has to be endured, suffered and eventually rationalized and understood and accepted, and to retard this unduly by knocking out the person with drugs may prolong or distort the process." Lasting relief will come only through meditation on the grand purposes of our God for each of us, however difficult it may be for us to grasp their mystery here and now. "Happy the man ... who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night" Psalms 1:1, 2; "How I love your law, 0 Lord! It is my meditation all the day" Psalms 119: 97.

Get back into your regular routine. You may have to push yourself at first to go to work, to go shopping, or to take care of other responsibilities. But you may find that the structure of your normal routine will do you a lot of good. Keep busy in doing genuine Christian good works. "Be steadfast and persevering, my beloved brothers, fully engaged in the work of he Lord. You know your toil is not in vain when it is done in the Lord" 1 Corinthians 15: 58.

Do not be afraid to let go of acute grief. Strange as it may seem, some grieving souls are afraid to let go of intense grief, believing that it may indicate their love for the departed is waning and diminishing. They fear thereby that they will forget in due time the memory of the departed. That simply is not the case. Letting go of pain makes way for treasured memories that will no doubt always remain with you. Then you can joyfully recall the living faith commitment of the departed soul which serves as an inspiring consolation and challenge. "There is an appointed time for everything ... a time to heal, a time to build, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, a time to keep and a time to cast away..." Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 3, 6.

Do not be unduly anxious. You may find yourself worrying, "What will become of me now? How am I going to survive without the encouragement and help of the one called to eternity?" Our Lord teaches us to take one day at a time. "Which of you by worrying can add a moment to his life-span?...Seek fit his kingship over you, his way of holiness and all these things will be given you besides. Enough, then of worrying about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own" Matthew 6: 27, 33, 34.


"If there is anything I can do, just let me know." This is what many of us say to newly bereaved friends-or relatives. Yes, we sincerely mean it. We would do anything to help and assist. But does the bereaved one call us and say, "I've thought of something you can do to help me"? Not usually. Clearly, we may need to take some initiative if we are truly to assist and comfort one who is grieving because it is our Christian responsibility. Scripture teaches us, "There is joy for a man in his utterance; a word in season, how good it is" Proverbs 15: 23; "The tongue of the wise pours out knowledge..." Proverbs 15: 2; "Like golden apples in silver settings are words spoken at the proper time" Proverbs 25: 11. There is wisdom in knowing what to say and what not to say, what to do and what not to do. Here we have heavenly inspired wisdom about what to do that some bereaved believers have found helpful.


Listen. The Apostle tells us, " quick to hear, slow to speak..." James 1: 19. One of the most helpful things you can do is to heal the pain of the bereaved one by listening. Some bereaved people may need to talk about their loved one who has died, about the accident or illness that caused the death. So ask, "Would you care to talk about it?" Let them decide. Recalling when his father died, one young man said, "It really helped me when others asked what happened and then really listened." Listen carefully, patiently and sympathetically without necessarily feeling that you have to provide answers or solutions. Allow them to express whatever they wish to share.

Provide reassurance. Assure them that they did all that was possible or whatever else you know to be true and positive. Reassure them that what they are feeling and experiencing - sadness, anger, guilt, or some other emotion - may not be at all uncommon. Tell them about others you know of who successfully recovered from a similar loss. Such "Pleasing lords are a honeycomb; sweet to the taste and healthful to the body" Proverbs 16: 25; Therefore comfort and upbuild one another, as indeed you are doing ... support the teak" I Thessalonians 5: 11, 14.

Be available. Make yourself available, not just for the first few days when many friends and relatives are present, but even months later when others have returned to their normal routine. In this way you prove yourself to be "...a brother ... born for the time of stress" Proverbs 17: 17. The parents of a child who died in an car accident states that Our friends made sure that our evenings were taken up so that we did not have to spend too much time at home alone. That helped us cope with the empty feelings we had." For years afterwards, anniversary dates, or the date of death can be a stressful time for survivors. Why not mark such dates on your calendar so that as they come around, you can make yourself available, if necessary, for sympathetic support?

Be hospitable. "Do not neglect to show hospitality" Hebrews 13: 2, Scripture reminds us. Especially should we remember to be hospitable to those who are grieving. Instead of a general "come anytime" invitation, set a definite precise date and time. If they refuse to come, do not give up easily. Some gentle encouragement may be needed. Perhaps they declined your invitation because they are afraid of losing control of their emotions in front of others. Or they may feel guilty about enjoying a meal and fellowship at such a time. Remember the hospitable woman, Lydia in Scripture. After being invited into her home, St Luke tells us, "She managed to prevail on us" Acts of the Apostles 16: 15.

Be patient and understanding. Do not be surprised by what grieving individuals may say at first. Remember, they may be feeling angry, inadequate, and guilty. If emotional outbursts are directed at you, it will take some insightful understanding and patience on your part not to respond with irritation. "Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another, forgive whatever grievances you have against one another; forgive as the Lord has forgiven you" Colossians 3: 12, 13.

Write a letter. Often overlooked is the value of a letter of condolence or a sympathy card. Its advantage? Cindy, who lost her mother to cancer answers, "One friend wrote me a letter that really helped because it was uplifting and I could read it over and over again." such a letter or card of encouragement may be composed simply, but written sincerely. Truthful sentiment is what counts, like that of St. Paul, "...I beg you to bear with this word of encouragement, for I have written to you rather briefly" Hebrews 13: 22. It can express your concerns and your caring soul, that you share a special memory of the departed and can show how your life has been positively touched by the person who died.

Pray with them. Do not underestimate the value of your prayers with and for the bereaved family and the departed soul. Let the family of the departed know you have requested prayers at the Memorial Services and asked the priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at which the soul by name of the departed will be especially personally remembered. We are asked to remember in regard to the repose of the souls of our beloved departed that "...the fervent prayer of a holy man is powerful indeed" James 5: 16.


Do not keep away because you do not know what to say or do. "I'm sure they need to be alone right now," we may tell ourselves. But perhaps the truth is that we are keeping away because we are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. However, being avoided by friends, relatives, or fellow believers may only make the bereaved one feel lonelier, adding to their pain. Remember, the kindest words and actions are often the simplest. " kind to one another, compassionate..." Ephesians 4: 32. Your presence alone can be a source of encouragement. Imagine how grateful St. Paul must have felt when he was taken prisoner to Rome, "Certain brothers from Rome who heard about us came ... to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took fresh courage" Acts of the Apostles 28: 15. Recalling the day her daughter died, Alexandra says, within an hour so many of our parishioner friends came to the hospital to be with us and to pray. "They just dropped everything and came. A lot of them told us they didn't know what to say, but just wanted to be with us; but it didn't matter because they were there."

Do not try to pressure them into stop grieving. "There, there, don't cry," we may want to say. But it generally is always better to let the tears flow. It is important to allow those who are grieving a death to cry. Resist the tendency to tell others how they should feel. And do not assume you have to hide your own feelings in order to protect theirs. Instead, "...weep with those who weep..." Romans 12:15.

Do not be quick to advise them to discard clothing or other personal effects of the departed before they are ready. We may feel it would be better for them to discard memory-evoking objects because they somehow prolong the grief. But the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind" may not apply here. The grieving person may need to let go gradually. Recall Scripture's description of the patriarch Jacob's reaction when he was led to believe that his young son Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. After-Joseph's bloodstained garment was presented to Jacob, he refused consolation, saying, "I will go down to the place of death mourning my son. Thus did his father lament him" Genesis 37: 35.

Do not say "You can have another baby." "I resented people saying to me that I could have another child" recalls a mother who lost her child in death. They certainly mean well, but to the grieving parent, words to the effect that a lost child can be replaced can "...thrust like a sword..." Proverbs 12: 18. One child can never replace another because each is unique.

Do not necessarily avoid mentioning the departed soul. "A lot of people wouldn't even mention my son Jimmy's name or talk about him," recalls one mother who lost her teenage son. "I must admit I was offended by their lack of sensitivity." So do not change the subject when the departed one's name is mentioned. Ask the person whether he needs to talk about his loved one. "I will give myself up to complaint; I will speak from the bitterness of my soul" Job 10: 1. Some grieving souls appreciate hearing friends tell of the special qualities that endeared the departed one to them. "All the widows came to him in tears and showed him the various garments Dorcas had made when she was still with them" Acts of the Apostles 9: 39.

Do not be too quick to say, "It was for the best." Trying to find something positive about death is not always consoling to depressed souls when we "cheer the fainthearted, support the weak" 1 Thessalonians 5: 15. Recalling when her mother died, one young woman said, "Others would incessantly say, `she's not suffering' or `she's at peace.' But I didn't want to hear that" Such comments may imply to survivors that they should not feel sad or that the loss was not significant. However, they may be feeling very sad because they dearly miss their loved one.

It may be better not to say "I know how you feel." Do you really? For example, can you possibly know what a person feels when a child dies if you have not experienced such a loss yourself? And even if you have, realize that others may not feel precisely as you felt. "Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering which has been dealt me when the Lord afflicted me on the day of his blazing wrath" Lamentations 1: 12. On the other hand, if it seems appropriate, there may be some benefit in telling how you recovered from the loss of your loved one. One woman whose daughter had been killed found it reassuring when the mother of another girl who had died told her of her own return to normal living. She said, "The dead girl's mother didn't preface her story with `I know how you feel.' She simply told me how things were for her and let me relate to them. It was insightful for me."

Helping a grieving person calls for compassion, discernment, and much love on your part. Do not wait for the bereaved one to come to you. Do not simply say, "if there is anything I can do..." Find that "anything" yourself, and then take the appropriate initiative.

Why is it most helpful to share the bereaved one's pain by listening? What are some things we can do in order to comfort one who is grieving? What should we avoid saying or doing to someone who is mourning?

What about Christ's promise of Resurrection? What can it mean for you and your loved one who has died and been called to their eternal reward? How do we know Christ is our reliable hope?


When death strikes a family, parents as well as other relatives and friends are often at a loss about what to say or do to help children cope with what has happened. Yet, children need adults to help them deal with death. Consider some commonly asked questions about helping children understand death.

How do you explain death to children? It is important to explain matters in simple terms. Keep it truthful and not fanciful or elaborate. Do not hesitate to use real words, such as `dead' and `death.' You may sit down with the child, take him protectively in your arms, and say, `A very, very sad thing has happened. Daddy got very sick with a disease that not many people get (or whatever you know to be true), and he died. It is not anybody's fault that he died. We will miss him very much because we love him, and he loved us." However, it may be helpful to explain that the child or his surviving parent is not likely to die simply because they get sick at times; that it is very serious and enduring sickness that precipitates death.

Encourage their questions. `What's dead?' they may ask. You might answer this way, Dead' means the body has stopped working and cannot do any of the things it used to; it cannot walk, talk, see, or hear; and it cannot feel anything.' A believing parent can then relate Christ's promise of the Resurrection and how our God remembers the departed and will bring them back to life in the future. That is why we sing "Eternal Memory," because we call upon the Lord to remember those whom He has called to Himself after first making them communicants of His kingdom in the sacramental Mystery of Baptism. After all, this is the promise He made to the repentant thief, "I assure you; this day you will be with me in paradise" Luke 23: 43; " need for you to be surprised at this, for an hour is coming in which all those who have done right shall rise to live..." John 5: 29. This is the rightful promised destiny of every Orthodox believer.

Is there anything you should not say? It is not helpful to say that the departed has gone on a long journey. Fear of abandonment is a major concern for a child, especially when a parent has died. To be told that the departed has gone on a trip may only reinforce the child's feeling of abandonment and he may reason: "Grandma left, and she didn't even say good-bye!" Be careful, too, with young children about saying that the departed one has gone to sleep. Children tend to be literal, and if a child equates sleep with death, a fear of going to bed at night can result.

Should children attend the funeral services? Parents should take into account the children's feelings and after explaining the aforesaid, tell the child they should be present for the final church services both in the place of viewing and at the church and the cemetery. If they are adamant about not attending, do not force them or make them feel guilty about not going. Give them a detailed description of what will take place, including something about the prayer services because the departed was a follower of Christ and a communicant of His Body, the Church. Explain too, that they may see a lot of people crying because they are sad. Again permit the child to ask questions while reassuring them that they can leave if they feel a need to.

How do children react to death? Children often feel responsible for the death of a loved one. Because children may at one time or another feel angry with the person who died, the child may come to believe that angry thoughts or words caused the death. You might need to offer some comfort: `Your thoughts and words are not what makes people sick, and they do not make people die." A young child may need such reassurances repeatedly.

Should you hide your grief from your children? Crying in front of the children is both normal and healthy. Besides, it is almost impossible to hide your feelings from your children completely as they tend to be very discerning and can often sense that something is wrong. They should understand weeping over the loss of a loved one is natural and normal. Being honest about your grief lets them know it is normal to grieve and at times to show true feelings. They will thus be schooled in a healthy way about grief management as believers and followers of Christ.


It seems so unfair for death to have the power to take away a loved one. And when it occurs, the thought of never again being able to talk to, laugh with, or hold your loved one can be most difficult to bear. That pain of loss is not necessarily erased by being taught your loved one is up in heaven. God's revelation to us in Scripture holds out a different hope. As previously noted, Scripture indicates we are judged immediately after our death and then based on the quality of our life, begin to anticipate the glory of beatitude forever with our God in the Holy Trinity.

There has never been any doubt our merciful eternal Father wanted us to be concerned in fraternal charity and united in faith about our loved ones after He calls them from this earthly existence to their eternal reward. Even before the coming of Christ the Messiah and His full and total revelation, we find this rather clear statement of fact in the Old Covenant, " is a holy and pious thought to pray for the dead ... that they might be freed from their sins..." 2 Maccabees 12: 46. The venerable patriarch and exemplar of charitable patience cries out to us from the pages of the old dispensation with an admonition about those we love and who have passed from this life into eternity and have recourse to no one but the charitable intercessory prayer of the living, "Pity me, pity me, 0 you, my friends, for the hand of God has struck me" Job 19: 21.

Because the souls of the faithful departed are no longer able to help themselves, but can be aided by our prayers, the Church since its very inception has taught her faithful children never to cease offering intercessory prayer for departed souls. To the Pharisees who accused Him of casting out devils by the power of the devil, the King of Eternal Life spoke plainly and succinctly: "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever says anything against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever says anything against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or the age to come" Matthew 12: 31, 32. Looking upon this statement of our Lord, we conclude readily it furnishes the highest authority for believing that the Church, as she ardently maintains, is neither limited to time nor space. We must advance and maintain the efficacy of prayer for souls of the faithful departed or we must abandon the deeply felt and cherished belief in the sublime importance of prayer and intercession and place a broad limitation on the sacred promise made by the Redeemer of mankind: "You will receive all that you pray for, provided you have faith" Matthew 21: 22.

We will be admitted into the presence of God after the Last and Final Judgment. "We have become partners of Christ only if we maintain to the very end that confidence with which we began" Hebrews 3: 14. Believers are not fully and totally saved until they finally enter into the kingdom of heaven. "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he who in his great mercy gave us new birth; a birth into hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; a birth to an imperishable inheritance, incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you who are guarded with God's power through faith; a birth to a salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days" 1 Peter 3 5. At that time all who believe faithfully in Jesus Christ will have the prospect of enjoying perfection and they will never have to die again. They will be united with their faithful loved ones for all eternity.

On a spring day when He was in our midst, our Lord boldly promised, "Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and grants life, so the Son grants life to those to whom he wishes ... no need for you to be surprised at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done right will rise to live..." John 5: 21, 28, 29. The faith of Orthodox believers is that Christ will raise us up together with Him for eternity. "God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but have life eternal" John 3: 16. "Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ" John 17: 3. Since Christ made the promise, it is safe to assume it will be kept because Christ provided blessed assurance.


It was a touching and inspiring scene. Lazarus was gravely ill. His two sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus, Who was across the Jordan River, "Lord, the one you love is sick" John 11: 3. Curiously, instead of going to Bethany immediately, Jesus stayed where He was for the next few days. "Yet, after hearing that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days" John 11: 6. Lazarus died sometime after the message was sent to our Lord. Jesus very well knew about the situation and He intended to do something about it. By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, his dear friend had been dead four days and was already entombed.

Finally, on hearing that the Saviour was coming, Mary ran out to meet Him. He told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die" John 11: 26. Upon arriving at the tomb, Jesus directed that the stone covering the tomb opening be taken away. Then after praying aloud, He commanded, "Lazarus, come out!" John 11: 43. -

All eyes were fixed on the tomb. Then out of the darkness emerged a figure with hands and feet bound with wrappings and his face was bound with cloth. Christ called out, "Untie him ... and let him go free." John 11: 44. This is the gospel narrative read at the interment many times as a reminding prospect of our own personal destiny on the last day.

To deny Resurrection of the dead is to deny Orthodox Christianity, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too." 1 Corinthians 15: 13.

The miracle of Lazarus' Resurrection, celebrated liturgically on the Saturday before our Lord's Entry into Jerusalem portends the believer's personal destiny. In a loving way it evidences the willingness of Christ to enter into the bitterness of death and sin, to overcome it and conquer it and then emerge victorious triumphantly from the grave of our human misery to restore believers as the rightful inheritance of the Eternal Father The very tender feelings of the Son of God when raising Lazarus reflect His intense desire to undo the ravages of sin and death, which is the very purpose of His coming among us.

Since Christ the Saviour " the reflection of the Father's glory, the exact representation of the Father's being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word" Hebrews 1: 3, He is living proof of the victory of the Holy Trinity over the devil's inflicted sin and death on the world with man's original and continual cooperation. Of the Eternal Father's reconciliation of man to holy perfection, the faithful Job has witnessed, "When a man has died, were he to live again, all the days of my drudgery l would wait, until my relief should come" Job 14: 14.

The Eternal God who created man and initially placed him in an earthly paradise, plans on returning believers to an even greater never-ending paradise in heaven for all time, as we are reminded in the perfect prayer, "...your kingdom come, your will be done..." Matthew 6: 10.

After fulfilling His earthly destiny and `our personal baptismal vocation, our Lord assured us, "Thus it is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day" John 24: 46.

Because Christ is risen, we shall also rise! Christ's Resurrection is affirmation of man's participation in divine life and a sign of victory as well.

"How lovely is your dwelling place, 0 Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God ... Happy they who dwell in your house; continually they praise you" Psalms 84: 2, 3, 5!


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