In Pieta, Michelangelo Captured Pain of the Bereaved

By Rev. Charles T. Rubey —

The Pieta is on display in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is one of the more famous pieces of sculpture created by Michelangelo. It depicts Mary holding the crucified body of Jesus. This mother’s heart is broken as she views her child’s broken body.

I thought of this piece of art and how appropriate it is as we celebrated Mother’s Day in May. This piece of art symbolizes mothers who are grieving the death of a child, or children grieving the death of a mother or a mother figure. The hearts of people are broken as they grieve the loss of a loved one from suicide. Michelangelo’s Pieta can certainly capture the feelings of all mothers on Mother’s Day — actually, all people grieving the loss of a loved one from suicide.

During this article, I am referring to one’s soul. By that I mean that part of us that has the will to live. I am using soul as that spiritual part of each and every one of us. I do not mean nor am I judging one’s soul or one’s eternal destiny. The word “soul” has different meanings and I want you to be aware of precisely what I mean. The soul is affected and that is the reason that the pain is not so apparent. One does not wear a brace around one’s soul or one does not put a cast on one’s soul. The soul is that invisible part of each and every one of us.

People grieving the death of a loved one from suicide have broken hearts because a life has gone from their midst in such a sudden and tragic way.  A broken heart results from someone’s broken soul. Their illness has destroyed the workings of their souls. Their souls, once lively and vibrant, have become engulfed in pain due to mental illness. Their vision and interpretation is that their souls are broken beyond repair and there is only one option open for them and that is to take their lives. The pain has become so intense and unbearable that these broken souls can no longer endure life any more. They leave in their wake a long line of broken hearts who are forever changed and altered.

Oftentimes, people get angry or bitter because a loved one has “done this to our family”. The pain of mental illness had taken over this person’s life. They were totally consumed by this pain. They could not for moments consider what the impact of their suicide would be on their loved ones. The last days or weeks were spent being consumed with this horrible and awful pain. There was no evil intent or desire to inflict survivors with broken hearts. Those completing suicide had broken souls and this condition prevented them from comprehending the impact of their action.

It is important to realize that a person completes suicide not because they want to cause their loved ones pain. They complete suicide because they have run out of steam and they are tired of this enduring pain.  There is no repairing these wounded souls. The way to escape this life of unending and excruciating pain is to complete suicide. From broken souls come broken hearts-The Pieta.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, let us especially remember the mothers in our LOSS family as well as those members who are grieving the loss of a mother or grandmother. This is an especially painful day for them. Please also remember all of those people who died due to a broken soul. Let us never forget them or their struggles.

The Rev. Charles Rubey is a priest with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He heads LOSS – Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide.

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