We’ve all been in the unfortunate situation of having to deal with the mountain of grief that accompanies death. Whether it’s saying goodbye to a loved one or accompanying another through his/her last days, the end of life is often challenging and filled with a range of emotions. At her home in Oklahoma, Dominican Sister of Hope Mary Ann Cirillo, OP, has helped the local community cope with death many times, from speaking at funerals to one-on-one counseling.
For Sister Mary Ann, one eye-opener came in the form of Native American community allowing even very young children to attend funerals.
“They are respectful of the dead. They grieve at a young age. It’s the whole cycle of death and dying and life,” Sister says. “We in our culture try to protect children from death; we sort of think it’s an option. It’s not.”
Nearly ten years ago, Sister earned a certificate in Death and Grief Counseling. Now armed with professional tips, she continues her ministry of being a compassionate companion to those facing a difficult time.
Below, Sister Mary Ann shares four main ways to deal with the grief of losing people we love.
1. Honesty is key.
Always be truthful. Honesty is always important, and times of grief are no exception. If you don’t know an answer, this would be a time to admit that rather than venturing a guess.
“Whether dealing with an adult or a child, it’s important to always be truthful and to walk the journey with them,” says Sister Mary Ann. “I don’t have all the answers about going to eternal life, but I can be truthful with them about that.”
2. Seek peace.
“We want people with us forever or even for just one more day, but we have to learn to let go,” Sister Mary Ann says. In truth, there’s never a good time to lose someone you care about. Moving on from ‘what ifs’ and accepting what is might be difficult, but it’s the first step to peace.
3. Know that others care.
After attending and being asked to speak at many funerals, Sister Mary Ann and her colleagues have realized that the most comfort they can offer is often to remind the families that they are in the sisters’ thoughts and prayers. “We tell them that they’re in our prayers every day, so they know we’re always praying for the person,” says Sister Mary Ann. Sometimes knowing that you’re cared about and that others are helping to shoulder your burden helps.
4. Relish the end of suffering for your loved one.
While mourning the absence of loved ones, you can also be very happy because there’s no more suffering for them, says Sister Mary Ann. This is especially true for those who suffered from illnesses or prolonged deaths. Hard as it is to realize, those who have passed are already at peace. Now it’s time for those mourning their absence to find peace, too.