Why did my husband die so young?

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Q. Dear Father:  On Dec. 10, 2016, I lost my beloved 44-year-old husband to a sudden death. He had no symptoms until three days before he died. We were married for 14 years and have one daughter. We have a lot of friends and family members who not only prayed for him, but begged God and had Masses celebrated for his health to improve. I also prayed and begged God. My husband and I did not get to do many of the things we had planned to do together. He was an awesome person and a loving husband and father. He was good to everyone around him. Why did God take him and let other bad, sick, and older people live? I’m in continuous pain and suffering. Why?
— Dina

Dear  Dina: Your husband’s sudden death was a traumatic moment for you. I empathize with you in your pain and sorrow. The loss of such an important part of one’s life can devastate one physically and spiritually. Thoughts of despair and panic quickly come to the fore. How does one handle all this? I would suggest that you do so by entering willingly into the process of grieving that occurs any time we lose someone or something important to us.

Grieving is part of life, like breathing. It’s inevitable. So it’s important to go through the process in order to avoid remaining in a permanent state of abnormal or morbid grief. You shouldn’t grieve alone. You might consider getting professional help. Perhaps a trusted friend might serve as a guide. You may want to consider joining a supportive bereavement group.

Your faith plays a major role in handling your grief. It embodies the religious beliefs which are central to your life. The example of Jesus weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus reveals him as a man who, in his grief, wanted and needed to express his inner feelings (see John 11:1-44). That’s why he was also able to say: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Clearly religion doesn’t stifle grieving, but rather sees it as a means of spiritual growth. How does it do this?

Our God is love, circulating from the Father to the Son through the Holy Spirit in a perpetual dance. Our God invites us to share in that loving dance. Out of love he created this marvelous world and universe with all its beauty, richness, and diversity. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” wrote the English poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, in his poem “God’s Grandeur.” And his abiding love maintains everything in existence.

Out of love he created man and woman in his image and likeness and endowed them with intelligence, will, memory, and imagination. We are to love and serve him and find in him our joy and fulfillment. Death was not a part of God’s original plan. But man sinned and consequently death entered into the world. So God sent his only-begotten Son to be our Savior and to conquer death. In Jesus’ deeds and teaching, we find the help we need to handle our grief.

Though our lifespan on earth is short, it matters because in it God reveals to us the goal of our existence and how we are to achieve it. He calls us to live eternally in the fullness of his life and happiness. “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God,” St. Athanasius said. By our actions here on earth, we decide whether we’ll spend eternity with God or without God.

By trusting in God’s love for us, we know that he would never do anything that would harm us. Your prayers at the time of your husband’s death accompanied him on his journey home. Praise God for this sign of his love for you and your spouse.

The grieving process can also make you a stronger person spiritually and emotionally. It will teach you to trust in God’s love and concern for you. In that merciful love you’ll find the peace and serenity you seek in the midst of your present sorrow. Later you might help others who are experiencing the same trauma. In conclusion, trust Jesus when he says: “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

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