Religion and dying

Death is frightening, and that's true even for many who have faith in God. Photo: AP

NEW YORK, March 24, 2013 — Even for those of us who have faith in God, facing death can be overwhelming.

With Easter on its way, Christians are confronted this week with the twin notions of death and resurrection. Death is an inevitable part of everyone’s life, one that we all experience as we lose loved ones and friends, eventually having to confront it for ourselves. It is comforting to limagine that we will embrace our own deaths in a grand and noble way, with grace and love and without fear.

Many people do. But some of us have a harder time dealing with death, and while religion and faith are a great comfort for many, what relief is there for those whose faith waivers?

Those of us in the Northeast have been living through a seemingly never-ending winter. Spring is supposedly right around the corner, yet it just won’t arrive. Winter 2012-2013 has brought with it the deaths of family members of some of my close friends and colleagues. Even as the rest of us have been supportive, it’s hurt, it’s been a source of both sorrow and anxiety, and as hard as I try to be a spiritual person, it has been hard at times to keep the faith. We’re reminded over and over again of the permanency of death. Anxiety has been a constant companion this winter, the weather combined with the deaths instilling a bleakness that has left me seeking solace and looking to my faith for some type of comfort.

Last weekend I was having a drink with a close friend who’s boyfriend’s father recently passed of cancer. She flew to the south to be there for her boyfriend and his family, and I was really struck by something she told me; her boyfriend’s family are very faithful Christians, and she remarked how comforting it was for his father and his family as they dealt with the father’s passing. They had complete faith that he was going to heaven, a beautiful place where they will someday meet again.

I have to admit, I am envious of those who have such complete faith in the afterlife. To me, the fear that I ‒ and those I love ‒ could possibly cease to exist altogether is inconsolably frightening. I wish that religion could be something that I could wholeheartedly run to for this type of comfort, but so far it hasn’t been easy. I question it, despite my wish and future hope not to.

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This Palm Sunday I will reflect on how I can better connect to my own spirituality in this very important week for Catholics. We face the death of Christ, and with that, the notion of our own death. I realize it seems contradictory to have both faith and doubt about what happens to us when we die in the physical realm. In the meantime, I’ll bank on trying to make the most of this life as I can, to leave it a little better than I found it, and to try and help more than I hurt. How do you reconcile death and your own spirituality?  


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Nicole Pandolfo

Nicole Pandolfo is writer and actress who lives and works in New York City. 

This Bad Catholic has had publications of several of her works and has had plays produced throughout New York City and the United States as well as in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Singapore, and Toronto.

 She is from New Jersey and does not understand anti-Jersey sentiments.  She thinks meeting Cher would be the tops.  


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