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The faith of grieving

The faith of grieving

The faith of grieving
April 30
04:15 2021

After a year of individual and collective tragedies, religion remains a vital part of the country’s moral fabric. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested just about everyone’s physical, mental and emotional limits. For the vast majority of Americans, organized religion remains a strong mechanism and way to make sense of an everchanging world. Regardless of one’s faith, we cannot shy away from the power of belief and how it has helped billions navigate uncertain times. Likewise, submitting to tragedy as part of one’s great plan rightly leads to skepticism and even delusion.

Entire systems of faith have always been challenged, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made the struggle of faith more pronounced and arduous than ever.

A belief in a higher power, and therefore an afterlife, is a prime coping mechanism for believers. The idea that a departed loved one is enjoying the fruits of a blissful paradise is a way to numb some of the pain. This last year has been a showcase of individual and collective tragedy, a sobering reminder of how dark and hopeless times can be. We constantly see global atrocities on the daily, so the notion of someone finding peace after death is a beautiful and poignant way to ease through the mourning process.

Tragedy is also seen as a way to take stock in one’s life and straighten their priorities. In what the “American Psychological Association” describes as “positive religious reframing,” times of loss can urge those in grieving to appreciate the time they have left. The freedom and preordained nature of “God’s Plan” can also lead to less inhibition and fondness of life itself, according to a study conducted by the Avicenna Research Institute. In essence, tragedy is a potent and sobering form of mindfulness.

However, depending on religion to be the base of one’s grieving can be a source of furthering one’s hopelessness. The idea of “negative religious coping” refers to a misguided way to frame emotional distress through a religious lens. Believing that everything is predetermined can lead to one adopting an aloof attitude towards tragedy. Instead of allowing faith to heal and even distort grim realities, one can develop a defeatist and even nihilist look at the world. If everything is God’s Plan, what is the use in taking initiative for anything? Even with certain faiths that ordain believers with a clear sense of purpose and conviction, the diplomatic idea of one big plan deflates one’s attitude towards life, especially in tragedy.

For acknowledgment’s sake, it is a writer’s job to back up opinions and hot takes with credible sources. Granted, I was able to link a few studies that focus on people’s faiths and how their beliefs helped them navigate through tumultuous times. However, the paradox of studying or quantifying religion is how it exemplifies the power of belief. Religiosity is almost impossible to objectively measure, as there is no metric to see how one’s faith contributed to their successes or failures in life.

Such is the case for how believers deal with tragedy. Everyone grieves and mourns differently. One person’s place of comfort is another’s setting of despair. The grieving process is unique and solely applicable to a given individual, complete with how their life experience reacts to a shocking and debilitating loss. There are pros and cons with how either spectrum of faith deals with loss. Religious folk can find renewed purpose within loss but can fold to the pressuring idea of a predetermined life. Likewise, nonbelievers can use their less preordained perspective to be more mindful and aware of what is going on in the present moment. A secular mindset can see loss as yet another spoke in a helpless wheel.

There is no tried and true way to go through times of distress. Your plight is uniquely yours and the only way to properly move on is to be true to yourself and your grief. Whether or not that involves religion or faith is entirely up to you.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Kevin Diaz

Kevin Diaz

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