Asking the right questions when we lose a loved one

Joyful Witness
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By Fr. Erik Esparza

 The sting of death is real, but it will never have final victory. Tears will be shed and profound pain will be experienced, but as people of faith, we know that love and hope remain.

 If you have lived a certain number of years it is very likely you have been confronted by death. The death of a loved one whether it be a family member or a friend is painful. There is no way to completely run away from it. Sure, we can try to deny it really happened, but in the end it is only a matter of time before those emotions will get the best of us. Emotions will range from profound sadness, immense pain and sometimes even anger. 

 The death of a loved one, no matter when it happens, will hurt. We must know it is okay that death stings a bit because it means we truly loved and our life has been forever impacted. One of the shortest verses in Sacred Scripture reads, “And Jesus wept” (John 11:35). We read that Jesus wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus. Shedding tears is a natural response to pain, suffering and loss. Tears can be a healthy reaction. Be not afraid to let the tears be a sort of cleansing. As those tears flow down your face allow each one to accompany the many memories and good times shared with the one whom you must now say goodbye. 

 There is not one person who is guaranteed another day. Each day is truly of gift. Why is it so easy in life to forget this? Why is it so easy to turn instead to bitterness and complaints? Why must we always put off until tomorrow or to simply go through the motions? Why is it that we take life for granted? Why must we have to say goodbye to those we love? 


 Isn’t it so true that we can often get stuck with that question, ‘why?’ This question is so normal to ask, yet it is not always the most helpful. Even if we were to receive an answer to our many ‘why’ questions, no answer will fully suffice. It will keep leading from one ‘why’ to another. I have learned not to get stuck in the ‘why,’ but to ask another type of question such as, ‘what now?’ Or, ‘where do I go from here?’ The ‘what’ and the ‘where’ help us move forward, rather than to remain stuck in the ‘why.’ The memories of our loved ones will always be with us. The stories, experiences, and special moments will live on. We honor our loved ones by not allowing the pain to swallow us up, but by taking what we have learned from the ones we have loved and to live each day to the fullest.

 When it is time for our journey in this world to end, surely we hope our loved ones will miss us a bit and even shed a few tears, but there is not one of us who would ever want our death to cause uncontrollable pain or to create an inability to move forward. As you would not want this for your loved ones, know your loved ones do not want their death to destroy your life.

 The sting of death is real, but it will never have final victory. Tears will be shed and profound pain will be experienced, but as people of faith we know that love and hope remain.

 Now go forth and be a joyful witness!

 Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of the Office of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.