Monday, February 20, 2012

Saints and Grief

 When I was writing my book on Saints and Suffering last year, I didn't include a chapter on Grief. There were several reasons for that, but probably the main one was that I didn't realize just how much suffering there is involved in the grief process.  Now that I've been griefwalking throught my loss, I think I'd like to investigate how the saints dealt with and handled their grief

The one place I do talk about grief is in the chapter on St. Jane de Chantal.  In it, I wrote:

St. Jane de Chantal had more than her share (of suffering)
It began when her beloved husband, the Baron de Chantal, died from an accidental gunshot wound, leaving her a widow with three small children. Jane was inconsolable and despondent, falling into a deep, grief-fueled depression for at least four months. For various reasons, including protecting her children’s estate, Jane was forced to live with her father-in-law, a difficult and tyrannical man who made her life miserable. For seven long years, she lived in virtual servitude until finally, as her biographers say, her patience and virtue triumphed.
Yesterday I talked about how our culture expects us to be over and done with grief in a matter of days (preferably hours if not minutes), but that grief doesn't work that way.  I find it surprisingly comforting to realize that a saint was "inconsolable and despondent," even deeply depressed, after a death.

Because we are so loathe to let grief has its time, the depression that falls like a soggy wet tarp on life isn't something we are comfortable discussing.  "Get something to help!" is the well-meaning advice of friends.  What they really are saying is "Your depression is making me uncomfortable, so take something so that you act happier and that way I won't have to feel so uneasy when you burst into tears over a cup of tea."

Taking a drug to mask the feelings only means that the feelings are submerged, and submersion isn't the same as healing. Healing is a process...a process that takes time. If it took St. Jane four months to begin to come out of her grief depression and she was a saint, then it's okay for me (and for you) to take the time we need to experience our walk through the valley of the shadow of death.


  1. Woodeene, three years after her husband's death, the friend who accidentally shot her husband wanted to meet with Jean de Chatall and Francis de Sales was counseling her: Of course your blood will boil when you see him, etc.

  2. I love when we can see the saints as real people, with real issues, not some glossy holy card image for whom all things come easily. Give me gritty saints who wrestle with God, who doubt, who cry and who pick themselves up and say, "One more day."


I'd love to hear your comments. Let's talk!