While we may often imagine those who experience loneliness at the holidays as older people, empty nesters, maybe those who live alone, that isn’t always the case. A woman named Clare wrote into her local newspaper to tell her personal story of loneliness and grief. Even though Clare is a woman in her forties and has five children, a loving husband, two sisters, and plenty of friends, she admitted that she still gets lonely at times. It isn’t for lack of activities in the household or those close to her being cold-hearted. No, Clare experiences loneliness for a different reason. Six years ago, her father passed away and it has been one of the most difficult periods of life for her.
Clare loved her father very much and since his passing, she has been struggling with his absence. Everywhere she goes, she notices people who look like him, act like him, exhibit similar mannerisms. Even surrounded by people and the hustle and bustle of life, she notices a void that her father used to occupy.
Josh Raymond welcomed Father Rob Kroll onto The Inner Life to talk about this topic of sadness and address questions surrounding it. How do we cope with this sort of solitude, especially during this time of year when families are supposed to come together in cheer and joy? And how can our faith guide us in those times of immeasurable grief or loneliness?
Father Kroll began by saying that this can be an especially difficult time of year because Christmas cheer is everywhere and it’s sort of expected that everyone have a good time all the time. That isn’t the case for many people. In fact, the holidays can often accentuate the contrast between the way other people are feeling and the way somebody in anguish or distress might feel. When talking about helping people in these situations, Father Kroll said he always tries to explain that grief and loneliness are universal. Everybody experiences this at some point in their lives. As we are all built different from one another, we may process those feelings in different ways and at different speeds, but sadness comes to us all sometimes.
Josh emphasized the idea of processing grief at different speeds, especially if it’s caused by the death of a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a parent. It can take a tremendous toll on somebody’s mental health as they struggle to keep up with the world as this great weight is balancing on their shoulders. Father Kroll said that as people of faith that believe in an afterlife, reconciliation, and the chance to reunite together after death, it can be tempting to feel like we shouldn’t even have grief. Why should we be sad if we truly belief in heaven and eternal salvation? Well, because we’re human. We’ve still lost someone, whether it be to death or distance or a falling out. We may reunite in the end, but for now, it is normal to feel this pain.
Father brought up the poignant examples of Jesus and Mary expressing their humanity through grief. Jesus, though God, still has a human nature. He suffered the loss of Lazarus and His cousin, John the Baptist. Mary and Jesus both experienced the death of Joseph and Mary had to suffer the death of her son almost entirely alone. And imagine how alone Jesus must have felt when He was being crucified, and all of His apostles ran and hid! Or what about when most of His disciples left, following the Bread of Life Discourse? These examples should serve as examples that legitimize the feeling of loneliness and grief during our most difficult times. It is simply part of the human condition. But as the saying goes, “It always rains before the rainbow.” We couldn’t have the good times without the difficult.
If you’re experiencing difficulty this Christmas with feelings of loss or desolation, take solace in the fact that everyone goes through periods like this and while it may feel like you are alone, you never are. Do not take those you do have around you for granted and always remember that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph accompany you on the good roads as well as the bad.
Listen to the whole conversation below:
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