Thinking Out Loud: Hurting hearts, healed hearts

John T. Catrett III
ONHL Hospice Chaplain

When our hearts are hurting, all the explanations and kind words of comfort can never replace our lost friend or a family member. A precious loved one who simply understands and listens to our hurts and confusions is more valuable than all the knowledge of an encyclopedia. Here are four thoughts that can help us to cope with hurting hearts.

Until it is expressed Grief will never end. We recognize, however, it is neither simple nor easy sharing one’s grief. Some feel grief is too personal, too intimate. Some feel frightened. They fear losing control and embarrassing either themselves or their listeners. We men find it particularly hard. Women often have an easier time-sharing their feelings. Both require those wishing to help to be respectful and patient with those who, suffering, struggle to share their feelings. This same patience and respect is needed for those who easily share—especially when they seem never to end. We must recognize that sharing is necessary and healthy for the grieving.

Grief is not cured with time. We can internalize this unexpressed grief. Then it begins to fester and hurt. We manifest this unsettled sorrow in other ways. We may become ill. We may be filled with rage, or fall into depression, which can lead to substance abuse. We may suffer broken relationships or become emotionally imbalanced. There is an old adage, “We can see smoke of a burning home but who can know of a burning heart?” We can only begin the healing process when we “expose the smoke” and share the pain we feel for our loss.

We can talk our way through the grief journey, and experience victory over anguish. We can fight back. The listening ears of a friend or family member can be the most powerful weapons against the stronghold hold of heartache of losing a loved one. No one is ever hurt by the human ear. No one ever feels like they have “to much listening.” Victory can be achieved by someone genuinely listening to you as you share with them what’s going on in your tender heart. As Linda E. Knight wrote, “…As you work your way through this time of sadness, may strong and lasting memories be your comfort. As you journey down this road of many branching paths…let’s walk together.”

If we don’t communicate our grief with friends or family members, then we become angry, bitter, mad and hateful people to those who we dearly love. Waiting to share grief doesn’t make it better, we just get bitter, and it’s more difficult to overcome bitterness. The key to overcoming is share what’s going on in our hearts and minds with someone special as soon as possible.

We do not get well. The pain does not go away. We do not fail to remember or stop honoring our loved one. But the day comes when we turn the corner in the way we cope. As the journey progresses we begin to discover things that speak to us. Some find Scriptures like the Gospel of John chapter 14 that reaches out and touches our hearts and souls. For others there may be a poem or a statement someone wrote or said to us in the right moment that made it meaningful to our lives. One day we wake up and, for some unknown reason, we experience inside our hearts real comfort. It comes gradually as our hearts are healed to cope with daily life.

John T. Catrett III is chaplain for ONHL Hospice. He can be reached at (918) 352-3080 or