I’ve had a lot of time the last few months to think about the best way to help those who are grieving.
We are surrounded by those who grieve. It is a sad part of the fallen world that we live in. There is the child who has lost a parent. The husband who lost a wife. The out-of-work friend whose car just died. The family who just learned Grandma has Alzeimher’s. Someone’s pet died. The family whose baby has been sick in NICU for a month. The list could go on and on.
And we feel helpless. What do you say or do in the face of overwhelming tragedy? Well, the doing part is a little easier. We bring food. We offer to help with errands. We babysit. We give some money. But at the same time we know that these are only helping the outside of the problem.
How do you help the aching heart inside? Here’s what I’ve learned from my own personal walk with grief.
I know that you cannot take away the hurt so I don’t expect you to. No matter what you do or say you cannot bring my husband back to me. That is life. That is reality.
BUT your presence means more to me than I can ever express. When I cry, let me. While I cry, hold me. When I talk, listen. This gift of your time, presence, and comfort will do more to ease my hurt than you can imagine.
I went to a scheduled chiropractor’s appointment at the end of a difficult day. I was just there for an adjustment, but when she asked how I was doing the tears started and didn’t stop for another twenty minutes. She sat on the bench beside me with her arm around my shoulders occasionally patting my back and let me cry and talk as if she had no one else to take care of. She had no solutions to my problems only the gift of her presence and care. I left feeling lighter.
I’m learning that grief cannot be rushed. It’s been nine months since my husband left me. Nine months since I gave him permission to give up his fight and watched him breathe his last breath. And yet the hurt is so much deeper and more painful now.
It’s not constant. There are times when I’m content -happy even, but then there are other times when the pain is so deep I’m not sure how I can even make it through the next minute.
God has given me some wonderful friends who have helped to ease the pain. Here is what I’ve learned from their help.
Pray for me. There are times when I hurt so badly I can’t even pray. I bow my head but no words come. And yet, God sends me peace and comfort. I am convinced this is because others are praying for me. Pray with me. If I talk to you about a need pray with me right there. I cannot describe how comforting this is.
Call me. I have a friend who has lost two husbands and knows better than anyone else what I’m going through. Every couple of weeks she gives me a call to see how I’m doing. Those calls are incredibly precious to me. My sister talks to me almost every day. She has her own trials, and we draw strength from each other.
Send me a note. I have a friend who lives on another continent. We stay in touch through Facebook. If she doesn’t hear from me for a few days she sends me a message to see how I am. She too has lost a husband to cancer and knows what I’m feeling. Letters and cards in the mail brighten my day. They are a tangible reminder that someone cares.
Take me out for a tea or a shopping trip (or both). My pastor’s wife (who is also my best friend) has done this several times. The first time I was surprised that we ended up spending the entire day out. Now I expect it and look forward to it. We shop or just window shop, have a tea together, and talk and talk and talk. To be away from home for a few hours and leave my responsibilities behind and relax. These outings are so refreshing.
Help me with errands. I recently had to go to a city three hours away for some paperwork. That could have been a lonely trip with way too much time to think which would have led to tears except that my pastor’s wife offered to come with me. One of my sons wants to learn to play the guitar. I am totally clueless as to what he needs, but one of my pastor’s sons has done all the legwork and found a guitar for my son.
Make a meal. I am convinced that grieving is some of the hardest work a person can do. It is exhausting. And all the things you need to learn to do on your own without the help of your spouse! We recently made a trip to the States to visit friends. When we came home there was a complete meal on our porch left by our pastor’s family. What a blessing!
Don’t forget my children. My children need someone to talk to also. My girls have all enjoyed spending time with our pastor’s wife. She has even taken out one of my little guys when he seemed to be struggling with his grief. He came home calmer and sweeter. Our pastor has taken my two oldest sons out individually and talked to them.
I hope this doesn’t feel like an overwhelming list. Really all of these things just fall under the category of being compassionate. Pray and God will show you the best way for you to help your friend who is hurting. And know this – whatever you do will be appreciated.