The Greatest Suffering: Bereavement from a Theological Perspective
John Graham, MD, DMin, President & CEO, Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center
Holmes and Rahe’s Stress Scale (2016) identified the loss of a loved one as the most life changing event a human can experience. This paper will look at the physical, emotional, and spiritual impact of bereavement through the lens of sacred writings. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says: “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh” and scripture records many who wept upon the loss i=of a loved one. Abraham wept with Sarah died (Genesis 23:2). Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). Upon the death of Prophet Mohammad’s son, Ibraham, the Prophet said, “Our eyes are filled with tears, our hearts with grief, but we say nothing that is not pleasing to Allah.” In Buddhism, there is the “Weeping Buddha,” who is said to weeping for all the pain and suffering in the world. In Hinduism, Shiva cried and showed grief when Sati died. To weep upon the loss of a loved one is part of what it means to be human, to be created in the image of God. And, today men and women around the globe are weeping the loss of a loved one. A forty-five year-old woman in our bereavement group began weeping uncontrollably and said, “My twenty-year old son died a month ago from an overdose of Opioids. I am a single mom and he was my only child. Now I am alone. I worked all my life to provide for my son. I expected him to graduate from college, marry and have children. But, now I have no son and my life has no meaning any longer. What do I have to live for?” How do we answer her cry and the cry of all who weep? Nor will we not look for easy answers to the age old theodicy question, “Why did God let my daughter die?” Yet, we remember Scripture says that in the Age to come, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).