Grieving the loss of a spouse

16 September 2022

Marie Garat
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Further to her husband’s death in a helicopter accident three years ago, Marie first came to the shrine of Our Lady of Montligeon in 2021 to attend a bereavement retreat during the All Saints period. She came back with her children for a Summer break in 2022. She shares here how she copes with grieving the loss of one’s spouse.

What led you to a bereavement retreat in Montligeon?

What helped me to make the step was to be invited and accompanied by my husband’s sister. We did the five-day mourning session. I felt very supported during my mourning process: on the one hand, by the Sisters (of the New Covenant) who helped us to become aware of the psychological phases of mourning, and, on the other hand, by the chaplains who provided us with an eschatological vision of what we are going through when bereaved, and, moreover, to hope in what is ahead in Heaven.

In addition, I very much appreciated feeling upheld in the surrounding communion of prayer, experienced not only with the coparticipants but also in the larger communion of Saints.

Being individually ministered by a chaplain throughout the session helped me to understand that my husband had reached his goal and was awaiting me. That he is an ally and that he helps us even more now he is with God. To start with, it was hard to hear, but now, we really do experience it. I see situations that are a bit tricky in terms of everyday life resolved in a providential way.

Do you have any advice for dealing with the loss of a spouse?

You need to take the time to grasp it at your own pace and not engulf in plenty of activities or work. Realizing that you have the right to be sad or to burst into tears is essential. One should not hesitate to ask for help from family or close friends, likely to understand what you are going through. I was blessed enough to have lots of support for the logistics part of my life with the children; it provided room to deal with the aftermath shock and weep when I needed to.

The two-year mark after one spouse’s death is a bit critical because the family has established a new routine, but yet the husband and daddy, is no longer around. I found that this juncture was difficult to live with because loneliness had caught up with me, whereas at the beginning you are very much surrounded.

Thus the bereavement retreat session turned up perfectly. I felt it was time to place the new chapter ahead of me under the gaze of God so as to be able to consider it in hope.

How did you deal with the grief and emotions of your children?

Each of our three children who were then rather young reacted differently. I found it quite healthy to show them that I was sad, while explaining how I felt. I could verbalize it but was most cautious to always include a message of hope. I am blessed to believe in God . So I could say that their daddy was with God and that he was present too but in another way, even if separation is painful and even if it would take a while to grasp it.

With my family and in-laws, we shave been sticking together. We do still fall to pieces at times but we support each other because we’re lucky to get along so well.

Is there life after a spouse’s death?

At first, I thought that life would be extremely lingering without him. After a while, I became full of anger. I would cry out to God, “I don’t understand what you want! It’s already not an easy task to raise three children close in age when there are two parents, so now I’m by myself, I don’t see how I’m going to manage!” Then, I finally opted to ponder on the fruits of our love: our children. This helped me a great deal and gave me strength.

For a while, I had to drive myself into taking care of them for grief is most tiring. I was exhausted. However, rather quickly, life took over and the children, who like all children are always making plans, impelled me to move forward.

Is work an ally or a burden ?

I was offered the opportunity to resume work fairly quickly. At first it was hard to get back into the swing of things and get organized but soon I realized what a gift it was. Working fills my days, even though I remain quite vigilant not to drown in work so as not to have grief return in full wing afterwards. Hence the importance of the mourning session at Montligeon, which allows one to come to rest. The work enables me to open up as well as be functional in other ways.

Do you believe in the communion of saints?

To believe in the communion of saints is to believe that life on earth and life in heaven are thoroughly connected. Everything we do and everything we experience impacts Heaven: good deeds, efforts, ordeals. All of which can help souls who are awaiting to get into the presence of God. Equally, the petitions we request from them help us on our way. With Montligeon, I rediscovered this configuration of prayer that unites the deceased and the living.

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