man in sweatshirt sitting on a rock by the sea, looking sad. Text: 5 Remedies for Sorrow from St. Thomas Aquinas
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You Need to Read these 5 Remedies for Sorrow from St. Thomas Aquinas

man in sweatshirt sitting on a rock by the sea, looking sad. Text: 5 Remedies for Sorrow from St. Thomas Aquinas

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This article was written by Eileen Tully (learn more about her ministry at

Suffering and sorrow are a part of life in this fallen world.

In Romans 8, St. Paul says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now’ and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23). 

But while we are waiting for this redemption, how do we handle this experience of sorrow? 

We suffer with hope, of course, that God is working all that happens to us for our good, as St Paul goes on to say in Romans 8:28. Fixing our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen  enables us to live in the Spirit and not in the flesh, but we are both body and soul.

We suffer as body and soul and must endure suffering as both.

Thomas Aquinas understood this need to care for body and soul so well, and in the First Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologica (Question 38), he offers five remedies of sorrow or pain that, not surprisingly, many of us will know from experience to be true and helpful.

I learned about these remedies a few years ago, after I had created my first retreat for grieving mothers and incorporated into it several things that had been helpful to me in my own experience of sorrow after the death of my twin daughters. Upon learning about St. Thomas’ remedies, I recognized all of them to have been among those things that were the most beneficial to me, and not just for grieving the loss of a child. These things are helpful no matter what sorrows and sufferings we face, and even our modern psychology would agree: the Angelic Doctor was ahead of his time.

Eileen Tully is the author of Praying with Our Lady of Sorrows: Meditations for Grieving Mothers

Let’s look at these remedies St. Thomas suggests and see how they help us endure our suffering.

1. Pleasure 

It can be difficult to allow ourselves to feel pleasure when we are suffering.

Sometimes we may just not enjoy the same things that we used to, and other times, we may even feel guilty for experiencing pleasure again after something painful like grieving the loss or the illness of a loved one. But, says Aquinas, Pleasure assuages pain.” 

Not every pleasure is beneficial, and we recognize that while escaping from our pain into activities like overeating, overconsumption of alcohol, or even “doomscrolling” on our phones may assuage pain and feel pleasurable in the moment, in the long run they may not actually be good for us.

Each of the following remedies Aquinas offers will expand on this idea of pleasure, however, encouraging us toward pleasures that will be truly helpful to us.

2. Weeping 

St. Thomas says that where there is laughter and smiling, there is increased joy.

But weeping, rather than increasing sorrow, actually diminishes it. “First,” he says, because a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened.” 

Second, weeping is a remedy for sorrow because, “an action that befits a man according to his actual disposition is always pleasant to him.”  Putting on a happy face for others or pretending that we are “fine” when we’re not are actions that do not befit us according to our disposition, and it doesn’t take long for us to recognize that these things do not feel good and are difficult to maintain.

No need to keep a stiff upper lip: crying – and groaning, according to St. Paul – is what is befitting for someone who is suffering, and finding the time and the people who will allow us to do this can alleviate our pain. 

Do you know someone who is grieving right now?  Check out our recent post titled Help Heal a Heart with These Catholic Gifts.

woman cryingEileen Tully is the author of Praying with Our Lady of Sorrows: Meditations for Grieving Mothers

3. Sharing our sorrows with friends 

St. Thomas references Aristotle, who said that “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved,” and goes on to add that “When a man’s friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them, and this affords him pleasure.” As we know from the first point, “every pleasure assuages sorrow,” so this kind of love from friends is such a benefit to those who suffer

This remedy is one that can be challenging, however.

Not all of our friends are capable of entering into our suffering with us and allowing us to share our burdens with them. When, in trying to share our sorrows, we encounter a friend who does not have the capacity to empathize with us, it can make us feel worse. We can shut down and suspect that there is no one who can bear this burden with us.

When we find friends who can accompany us, we have found a treasure. 

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4. Contemplating the truth 

Continuing to expand on the idea of pleasure, Aquinas says, “the greatest of all pleasures consists in the contemplation of truth. Now every pleasure assuages pain…hence the contemplation of truth assuages pain or sorrow.”

Since Christ Himself is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” there can be no greater truth to contemplate than God Himself. 

Suffering is where the rubber of our faith meets the road of life.

Sometimes when we are suffering, God can feel far away. We may feel tempted to despair and ask of Him, “Are you really good? Do you really love me?” We can forget the good things He has done for us. The writer of Lamentations 3 talks of this kind of despair when he says in verse 17, “I have forgotten what happiness is.”

He doesn’t end there, however. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope,” he goes on. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23  

man and woman hugging, sitting in front of a monstrance

The Hebrew people wore a small leather pouch on their arms and around their heads called a tefillin that contained a scroll with the Lord’s commands and promises. They had a small box called a mezuzah on their doorpost that contained these scrolls, too.

As Catholics, we have the Eucharist.

We have the crucifix.

We have the scapular and our sacramental objects.

We have images of the saints who have gone before us – the most revered of whom have also overcome great suffering and martyrdom with exemplary faith in the Lord’s goodness and love for them.

And we have the Bible – the very Word of God.

When we contemplate the Truth of who God is and how He has demonstrated His great love and faithfulness time and time again, we can suffer with hope that He will not forsake us. This alleviates our sorrow.

Do you know someone who is grieving right now?  Check out our recent post titled Help Heal a Heart with These Catholic Gifts.

5. A warm bath and a nap

I love this one.

It is so clear that St. Thomas had an understanding of the physical effects of sorrow and suffering. It is exhausting.

It can cause a physical ache in us. These remedies demonstrate how caring for our physical bodies can help us to care for our whole selves. “Sorrow, by reason of its specific nature,” says Aquinas, “is repugnant to the vital movement of the body, and consequently whatever restores the bodily nature to its due state of vital movement is opposed to sorrow and assuages it.” 

Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, and this is a good reminder not to neglect the care of our bodies – eating well, getting rest – while we undergo suffering.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason, man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.” (CCC 364, emphasis added)

As we await, with the rest of creation, the coming of the Lord, when every tear will be wiped from our eyes, St. Thomas Aquinas’ remedies for sorrow can help us to endure our suffering and continue to run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

Eileen Tully is a Catholic convert and founder of Present in the Pain, a ministry offering healing retreats and helpful resources to women who have experienced the loss of a child. A bereaved mother herself, she has also created a podcast and a private online community to help women find the support and accompaniment that are so important to healing from this uniquely intense kind of grieving. You can learn more about Eileen and her ministry at

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