Sharing Loss – Mother of Sorrows Parish helping those who grieve
By The Catholic Accent
MURRYSVILLE – Nancy Matteuzzi experienced the loss of a loved one at a young age. Her father died when she was 9.
“I still remember somebody at the funeral home saying to me, ‘You’re going to have to take care of your mom now’,” Matteuzzi said. She felt the heavy burden those words placed on her. Two grandparents passed away soon after. She relied on her mother, a nurse, to help her through the grief.
Her mom received a lot of prayer cards at the time and Matteuzzi found three of them that she felt were helpful. “ I rode my bike to the grocery store to make photocopies of them and kept them by my bedside and prayed them each night before bed,” she said. It gave her the feeling that her late father was her first connection to God, interceding on her and her mother’s behalf.
Over the years, Matteuzzi learned how to integrate grief into her life. As part of her role as Pastoral Associate for Spiritual Care at Mother of Sorrows Parish in Murrysville, she is devoted to helping those who are grieving find the tools they need through the parish’s bereavement group. Matteuzzi is also a board-certified chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
“I focus on spirituality as our connection to God, to others and to ourselves,” ,” Matteuzzi said.
She said grief disrupts all of our connections.
In bereavement group sessions, “We talk about how grief impacts our connection to ourselves, because sometimes people want to close off from their own emotional experience,” she said.
Grief can disrupt relationships with others, because people experiencing the same death of a loved one process their grief differently. Grief also challenges our connection with God, she said.
“People experience anger or want to know ‘why did this happen?’ depending on the type of loss,” Matteuzzi said. “I tell people that God loves us as his beloved children. Just as we would not cause suffering for our own children, God would not cause that suffering for us.”
Oftentimes when people learn of the death of a person’s loved one, they want to be supportive but fear saying the wrong thing.
“Validating and affirming that you know that they lost a loved one and then offering to listen is important,” Matteuzzi advised. “If you knew their loved one, offer to share a story about that person with them that maybe they don’t know. Just offer to be available to listen to them with the understanding that you can’t expect the person who suffered the loss to be OK on your timeline.”
Mother of Sorrows Parish will offer two bereavement group series: Tuesdays, Sept. 12-Oct. 24 from 6:30-8 p.m. and Wednesdays, Sept. 13-Oct. 25 from 1-2:30 p.m. Additional sessions are planned in the spring of 2024. The sessions are open to anyone dealing with grief. Matteuzzi is also available to conduct bereavement programs in other parishes across the Diocese. To register or for more information, call 724-733-8870.
Nancy Matteuzzi, Pastoral Associate for Spiritual Care at Mother of Sorrows Parish in Murrysville, offers these insights on how to respond when a friend or loved one is grieving:
– Please acknowledge our loss. When you see us after our loved one has died, just let us know that you are aware by saying something simple like “I heard that ___ died. I’m so sorry.”
– We might cry when you ask us how we are doing. This does not mean that you made us sad. The tears are evidence of how deeply we cared for our loved one. Your concern just allows us to acknowledge the pain.
– We are aware that grief and sorrow make many people (and our society as a whole) uncomfortable. Sometimes your discomfort causes you to rely on unhelpful platitudes. It is important for you to be aware of your discomfort. It is OK to say, “I don’t know what to say.” In fact, it is better to say this rather than “s/he’s in a better place” or “everything happens for a reason.” These phrases usually just make you feel better.
– Remember that an empathic statement does not start with “at least.” Do not try to put a positive spin on things – for example, “at least you have other children” or “at least you had X number of years together.” Although these are common phrases, it sends the message that you don’t recognize the depth of our sorrow.
– Sometimes we don’t want to talk. It may be because we just don’t have the energy. When we do want to talk, we want you to listen without judgment or expectation. Do not give us advice or try to “fix” us. Grief is not an illness that needs to be cured.
– Additionally, our grief does not have a deadline. Each loss is unique. Some may feel like we should be “over it.” We feel like we will never be “over it.” We are learning to live with it, and this may take a very long time.
– We know that our loved ones were not perfect. Please share memories with us – the good, the bad and the ugly. This helps us to be able to acknowledge their humanity, with all their imperfections, and work through unresolved anger or resentment.
– Please give open-ended offers: “When you are ready, I am here to listen”; “Let me know how I can be supportive”; “When you feel up to it, I’d love to get lunch with you”; “No need to respond, but I am thinking of you.”