Augustine on Grief and Consolation

Little by little, after my mother’s death, I began to recover my former feeling about Your handmaid [Augustine’s mother, Monica]. I remembered how loving and devout was her conversation with me, of which I was now suddenly deprived.

And I found solace in weeping in Your sight both for her and for myself.

—Confessions 9.12

I think Augustine gets it exactly right here. Notice that he does not deny his grief. It is very real to him as he longs for the days when his mother was alive. And he also wisely understands that his tears and grief are the main vehicle in which God begins to heal and console us.

God’s consolation through our grief does not heal us magically and suddenly. It takes time and we must walk through the darkest valley as we grieve because death is a real and grievous thing. But as the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 23.1-6, those of us who have faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus do not walk through the valley alone. We have the love and presence of Christ in and through the person of the Spirit to sustain us and hold us up.

As Augustine hints, even when we are consoled, losing a loved one to death diminishes us as humans and leaves a permanent hole in our heart and lives. It really cannot be any other way when death breaks a real loving relationship because we were created to live life together, not in isolation or enmity to one another.

But even this does not leave us without hope or paralyze us. To the contrary, our Christian faith in God’s new creation that was launched at Jesus’ resurrection and which will one day be gloriously consummated is the basis for our hope right now that our loved ones are not lost, nor are we. We will one day be reunited with those we love who have died in the Lord and get to live in God’s direct presence forever! When that happens, we will have new bodies and new life to live together, thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

This is our Easter hope. Is it yours?

And for those of you today who miss your mother (or father) dearly, pray Augustine’s prayer below and make it your own. Take comfort and like Augustine, let God use it to bring you his healing and peace.

Lord, let no one tear my mother (and/or father), [insert your loved one’s name here], away from your protection.

—Confessions 9.13