They say that some of the worst things to say to a grieving person are:
- Cheer up. Your loved one wouldn't want you to be sad.
- He is in a better place.
- Pull yourself together because you need to be there for your kids.
Fr. Henri Nouwen said that to be a friend to someone in a moment of despair or confusion is to stay with the grieving person, not trying to give solution, to cure, or to fix. Rather, to be a caring person is to be present in silence, to offer warm and tender hand. Risen Jesus is the friend who stays with us in our moment of despair or confusion, showing us the way to the Father.
Mary Magdalene was inconsolable the morning she found the tomb empty. Her beloved teacher’s body was gone, perhaps stolen by someone. When she saw a man standing there, Mary didn’t recognize Him because she was still holding onto Jesus who died and not Jesus who had risen. When Jesus appeared to her, he said, “Stop holding onto me.” When Jesus called her by name, Mary’s eyes and heart opened.
On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy… So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” (John 16:20-22)
Unexpected sorrows of life can momentarily confuse and disorient us. In those moments, we don’t recognize Jesus who is present with us in silence as a friend who lends his warm and tender hand. If we persevere in prayer, we will hear Risen Jesus, who knows us completely and deeply, calling us by name and encouraging us to share with others how trials of life are but stepping stones to glory yet to be revealed. As Mother Teresa said, “Remember that the Passion of Christ ends in the joy of the Resurrection of Christ! When you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the resurrection has to come, the joy of Easter has to dawn.”