How to Mend a Broken Heart?

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Last week we witnessed the violent deaths of school children in Alabama and college baseball players in Atlanta. Today, Michigan law enforcement announced a suburban father of two young children has confessed to killing and dismembering his wife.

In Alabama, the cause of death was a freak of nature; in Atlanta human error, and in Michigan incarnate evil. But in each state today, regardless of the circumstances, people are mourning the loss of loved ones. They are grieving and looking for answers.

How do we console a broken heart?

I don’t have a perfect formula, but I believe there are good reasons for hope, and hope alone is balm for open wounds. The reasons come from a better understanding of our psychological structure and from the gift of faith.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published last week the results of a study on the grieving process by researchers from Harvard and Yale medical schools. Over an extended period of time they tracked more than two hundred people who had lost a close relative or spouse. They pinpointed the principle post-loss emotions, measured their relative strength, and timed their peak moments.

1.Disbelief (peaked at one month)
2. Yearning (peaked at four months)
3. Anger (peaked at five months)
4. Depression (peaked at six months)
5. Acceptance (increased steadily)

In this first empirical study of the stages of grief, researchers discovered all the negative emotions peaked within six months and “acceptance” continued to grow until it eventually became the dominant emotion.

We learn here that there is nothing wrong with feelings of disbelief, yearning, anger, or depression. They are natural sentiments, and they lessen over time. Isn’t this a reason for hope?

In times of tragedy people also turn to faith. They find great comfort in God. God is on the side of the suffering. He doesn’t cause bad things to happen. If he were to intervene on every occasion to keep tornadoes at a distance, bus drivers from making mistakes, and crazy men from killing their wives, he would essentially take away our humanity. We would be puppets. We would not be free.

Faith tells us God loves us so much that if he were to intervene and answer our prayers only sometimes, he must have a better plan. I think that too is reason for hope.

God bless, Father Jonathan

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