At one time or another, every one of us has been in a position to lend comfort to a friend who is struggling or grieving. There is no rule book for what to say or how to react when someone has passed away. But anyone who has ever struggled with sadness or grief has wondered, How can I feel and express more comfort, joy, and compassion?
Several years ago my brother was killed instantly in a car crash. No one plans how he or she will react to news of such a tragedy. Looking back, my first reaction was to pray to understand what had happened. And there was an immediate answer to that prayer in the form of what felt like a mental hug. It felt as if divine Love, God, was right by my side, letting me know that my family was embraced in love and that my brother was still being cared for and loved too.
But as the days went on, interacting with others was difficult. As well-intentioned as their concern was, I could almost feel the weight of their sorrow and pity pulling me down. Some expressions of sympathy even seemed to imply that God had had some hand in my brother’s death or that his life was unfulfilled.
Of course these suggestions were motivated by love, but they just made me feel sad and confused. These were concepts of life as defined by matter, or of God as causing bad things to happen. They were not at all in sync with what I had learned about God in my study of the Bible and Christian Science, which was discovered by Mary Baker Eddy, who also started The Christian Science Monitor.
The Bible reveals God as Love itself. To illustrate this fact, Christ Jesus used the metaphor of God as a Shepherd – a reliable, wise, and ever-present caregiver who would not let a single one of His children wander off, get lost, be injured, or die. He explained that it wasn’t God’s will “that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14). And in those moments right after my brother had passed, I had palpably felt the care of this tender, always present Shepherd, assuring me that my brother had not perished but continued to experience and express divine Life, God.
Jesus also explained that life is eternal. With the remarkable healing that he brought to so many, Jesus also proved the truth of this spiritual reality. He showed that our true identity is immortal – spiritual and unlimited – and that as the spiritual idea, or creation, of God, no one’s life is ever really gone. Life doesn’t end, because the eternal God, our creator, is Life. As we gain new views of Life and Love as infinite and divine, we realize that life can never really be lost, and that we are never without the love of God.
A few days after my brother had passed, some visitors came to our family home who understood this and truly expressed that strong and tender nature of our heavenly Shepherd. My mom was part of a tightknit group of women at church who had supported each other through prayer over the years and had loved and laughed together through thick and thin. These “church ladies” briskly walked into our house.
To me it seemed as if they were on the wings of divine Love. They came in bearing dinner and loving smiles that radiated confidence and kindness. Above all, they embraced us with a strength that seemed to say, “He’s just fine, and you are just fine, and we know it!” We all felt lifted up by their love, and it was a real turning point in our moving past the grief and on to brighter days. It wasn’t a personality thing. It was the comforting touch of God’s love, expressed by these dear women, bringing the conviction that my brother’s true, spiritual identity was untouched and whole.
Whether we ourselves are mourning or we’re desiring to comfort others who are, we can let the all-encompassing love of our divine Shepherd light our path forward. Then we can share that love through compassion stemming from confidence that none of God’s children is ever alone or lost.