Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5
Barry and I were out running errands when we received a call to go to the hospital immediately. One of our church members had a relative that was in a severe boating accident. We had no idea what to expect when we arrived, but the scene we encountered was forever etched into my memory. Family members were doubled over in the ER hallway holding each other and crying. Their cries were unlike any I had ever heard, they came from deep, very deep within their souls. It was painful to witness their raw, unfiltered suffering. They were clinging to hope that the young boy would survive, but his injuries were severe. As we waited among the sea of relatives and friends the devastating news was delivered to the family. The shock and the pain was almost unbearable to watch. I made my way down the hall to a small room; I couldn’t hold back the tide of emotions any longer. Tears were welling up in my eyes; I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation. I had never seen this type of grief…and I didn’t know what to do. As I turned the corner I saw her…sitting there alone. It was his mother. Her face was buried in her hands; she was muttering something to herself, over and over again. I started to walk away, I didn’t know what to do. But in a moment of uncertainty, I walked towards her. Without a word I wrapped my arm around her shoulder. We sat in silence as she wept. A woman I had never met enduring a pain I could not imagine and there I was… holding her as she fell to pieces.
But sadly, that’s all I did. My extension of love did not go past a quick moment of comfort in a hospital waiting room. I have never been good in moments of grief…I’m often the one standing back in silence, contemplating how I should respond, react or speak. I guess no one is really comfortable in those situations, but I am striving to learn ways to respond in a respectful and thoughtful way. There will never be the right words or cards. The perfect flowers or impeccable timing…but what I can give is love and consideration.
The topic of grief is so important…yet we often rely on our own understanding or emotions to dictate our response to those grieving among us. I have made so many mistakes through the years with church members and friends enduring the pain of a lost loved one. I wish I could go back and give more, love more and be there more. I wish I would have tried harder when they needed me the most.
In an effort to not repeat those past mistakes, I am gathering ideas to help me respond better in the future. Here are a couple of pointers on helping someone who may be grieving. I pulled these from the book Praying Through Sorrows. The bolded points are directly from the book, the comments that follow are my thoughts and summaries.
- We must remember them – Not just in the moment, but weeks, months and years later. Remember the anniversaries and special occasions with a card, kind word or fresh flowers on their door step.
- We must mourn with them – Be there for them. Don’t offer up your words of wisdom or say you understand, but don’t shy away from a quick phone call to tell them you love them or offer to bring over a meal or a movie. Be around and be willing to listen.
- We must accept their humanity – Be a friend that will allow them to vent and cry without feeling judged. They may say things they don’t mean. They are often in the trenches of grief and need a safe place to talk things through in order to process all of the emotions they are experiencing.
- We must comfort them – We cannot understand their circumstance, therefore we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions. Don’t feel like you need to rush into this, ask God to show you how and when you can bring comfort. Even the simplest thing can be exactly what is needed.
I have included a link at the end of this post for anyone interested in ordering this amazing book. It has helped me immensely and I know it has helped other ministers and church members through some very difficult seasons. It was written by our pastor, friend and mentor Chris Jackson. He and his family have shown us that it is possible to LOVE and ENJOY the ministry. They have loved us, prayed for us and sustained us with kind words, encouragement and Starbucks when we needed it desperately. I cannot say enough about them…they are the real deal.
Praying Through Sorrows by Dutch Sheets and Chris Jackson