The Courage to Accompany Those Who Suffer

holding hand of an elderly relative

This post is based on Week Seven of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

Every year, when I read the Scripture passages that recall the Crucifixion of Christ, apprehension begins to creep into my consciousness. I don’t want to remember what they are going to do to Jesus. I don’t want to hear those details. It’s too hard. I recognize those foreboding feelings. I’ve had them before. I’ll have to face them again.

My mother had been on dialysis for less than a year when she started having strokes. Her prognosis was grave, and my sisters and I took turns caring for her. Because I lived two hours from my parents’ home and had small children in school, I was responsible for my mother’s care on the weekends.

With every passing weekend, I grew more and more afraid. Watching her suffer overwhelmed me, and I was terrified that I would be the one alone with her when she passed. How could I face my life without her in it? At the end of my shift that last weekend before her death, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to face watching her die. I told my husband that I couldn’t go back.

It’s difficult to accompany those who suffer. And yet that is what we are called to do. We can’t take away their suffering. We can’t fix anything. But if we go through the experience with them, we are choosing to love beyond our fears. That is exactly what Jesus did for us when he followed God’s will for his life. And, as hard as those emotions are, because I’ve felt this pain, I can now recognize it in others.

When I returned to my parents’ house for my last night with my mother, I was ready. I felt sure that I could face whatever needed to happen. It had to be God’s grace. I was able to sit alone with my mother in her room while my father got some sleep. I held her hand, and when she took her last breaths, it was OK and even peaceful.

My mother’s suffering was over. For that, we were all grateful. Even so, we were very sad. Our grief took its time. But we know that what took place on that night 23 years ago was not the end.

I learned many lessons during my mother’s death that prepare me to accompany others in their time of suffering. I learned that if I could look beyond myself and follow Jesus’ lead, trusting in God’s will for the situation, I would be taken care of. I would not feel alone.

Having felt the fear, sadness, and grief, I can now sit with others, knowing that I don’t have to do anything other than be with them. Inspired by Jesus’ example, I keep my eyes on them and not myself and listen to their hearts. I can do all of this because I know Easter always comes. There is hope.


  1. Thanks Jean. What all you have felt and said are meaningful and powerful. As human beings, we are called to be really human.

  2. Thank you Jean, a very timely reflection. When I was able to go to the Good Friday afternoon Service, I could not bring myself to Cry Out with the Choir and congregation “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” This year I will be trying to find it “online” somewhere?? However I do have a place online where I can
    listen and watch the Stations of the Cross. Thank all Spiritual Directors , such as yourself for the great comfort of your writings ; especially helpful to those of us who can no longer get to our respective churches. A.M.D.G.

  3. I feel the same apprehension every year as this time approaches. But it is the violence of his death that appalls me; that Jesus was tortured and humiliated. I have trouble with that.


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