During the month of April, two of the prophetic religions celebrate very important feasts of their religious beliefs. Jewish people, our elders in the faith, celebrate the Passover. For the last couple of years, I have been invited to Passover and am able to participate in the meal as well as in the ritual of the Seder. For me it is a very prayerful experience. Christians celebrate the Feast of Easter which is the major Feast of the liturgical year. Christians celebrate the triumph of Jesus over His Death when we remember that He was raised from the dead. These two feasts delve into the mystery of God in God’s interaction with humans.
Over the years God has become very mysterious to me. I attribute this perception to two things in my life. The first aspect is the aging process. I think that as we grow older God becomes very mysterious. We wonder about the happenings in our world and we seek answers as to why certain events take place in the world such as war, poverty, starvation, mental illness and suicide to name just a few. The second event that has impacted my faith in God has been my work with people whose lives have been impacted by a completed suicide. This ministry has had a profound impact on my faith in God. My faith in God has grown immensely. It is so profound that I cannot put it in words but my belief in God is very deep and has been enriched by the pain that I have witnessed in the lives of the members of the LOSS Family. That might sound strange but it is true. Obviously I don’t relish the pain that is part of the grieving process but as I have journeyed with the members of the LOSS Family my life has been enriched and has become so full and my belief in God has grown exponentially. As I said before words can never quite capture just how this has occurred but it has occurred.
One of the great theologians of the twentieth century refers to God as “Holy Mystery”. I have used those words as I refer to God. One thing that we know about God is that God is holy. All we have to do is read parts of the Jewish Bible as well as the Christian bible as well as the Koran. The other aspect of God is mystery. No one can ever quite grasp God. God is incomprehensible. God is too much for any of us to quite get a handle on. Our minds are too finite and small to absorb the concept of God. As often as we try to understand or get a handle on God the effort fails because God is too much for us to absorb or get our arms around.
I remember a conversation that I had with a father who was a part of a ten session group that I was a part of. During the break he was expressing why God could allow this man’s son to take his life. The man was very religious and had deep faith in God. His question is one that I have heard countless of times over these past thirty-five years as have the other clinicians of LOSS. I have pondered this question myself as I have witnessed the devastation that a suicide has on an individual and a family. Over the years I have concluded that this is part of the mystery of God and that is what I shared with this father as he struggled with the various feelings that are part of the journey of grief. For me these are not just words that God is a mystery. I have come to believe in these words. Does that make faith easy? Absolutely not. Faith is not an easy activity. Faith is not going to make the grief journey an easy endeavor. It does add a dimension but it can never take the place or become a substitute for the grief journey. Faith can be a companion for those people who are on the journey of grief but it can never take the place of resolving the various feelings that are a part of the journey.
Sometimes an unfortunate happening when someone experiences the loss of a loved one from suicide is that a person’s faith can be diminished or destroyed by this violent act. Obviously faith is not going to play a big part of this person’s journey nor is faith going to play a part in the grief journey with someone who has never had faith or who lost faith somewhere along the way. Does that mean that people without faith are going to struggle forever with their grief? Absolutely not. People without faith can and do resolve the pain of grief but in a somewhat different fashion. No one is hopelessly on the journey of grief without any hope of finding relief. This journey is a long and arduous one but one that can be completed and have a happy ending –different but happy.
Some people get angry with God as the result of losing a loved one from suicide. This can be a normal reaction, especially for someone who believes that God has a part to play in all of the happenings of the world. Personally, I don’t believe that God plays a role in every happening of our world. My belief is that God does not control nor direct all of the events in our individual lives and in the world, yet at the same time God journeys with us throughout our lives. Why do awful events happen in our world? I don’t have an answer to that question but I don’t blame God for all the bad in our world. Why does God allow such horrible things to occur in our world? That is all part of the mystery of God. God is the great mystery of our universe and I can honestly say that I am immensely intrigued by God and look forward to being engulfed by God in the hereafter.
As always, I want to assure each and every one of the members of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers during my quiet time and I encourage each and every one of the LOSS family to do the same for each other –especially for those who have recently joined our family.
Keep On Keepin’ On,
Fr. Charles Rubey
Originally published April 01, 2014 -- Rev. Charles T. Rubey is the Founder and Director of Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) a non-denominational program offered by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Starting in 1979 with one small group, LOSS has grown to be a leader in the field of suicide grief, offering support groups and counseling for survivors of all ages, in and around metropolitan Chicago. ‘From the Desk of Father Rubey” appears as a monthly column in the LOSS newsletter and is reprinted here with permission. For more information or to request a monthly copy of the LOSS newsletter, please contact LOSS.