O, Lord, the grieving are many!
A wayward son, now beyond what the family can help. Another son can’t shake the depression but won’t take his medicine. Another son runs away from home leaving parents worried without information on his whereabouts.
A husband gone to another woman’s bed, leaving his wife and young children behind. A mother just receives her third diagnosis of cancer. A friend must leave her a home because an abandoning husband, her life-long memories babies being born and raised under that roof left there as well. A cousin murdered, his body never found. And then there was the suicide in July—the fourth one in our two extended families.
This isn’t all. But it’s enough for now.
All this grief in people who are my friends and family.
But grief visits us all in some way, at some time. Some bury it, like the dead.
But what if grief isn’t dead?
What if it’s still alive, still breathing and beating under whatever coping mechanism we’ve piled on as cover over the rubble of our inner lives?
What do the grieving need but to be dug up, pulled out and helped to heal? How do we show Christian compassion for the hurting, those suffering losses that bleed invisible?
- Sit with us. Don’t treat us like lepers. Our grief isn’t contagious. But it just might remind you of grief you’d rather not face. And our own grief often scares us more than another’s.
- Listen to us. Don’t offer trite comments or spiritual platitudes when someone is hurting like “All we can do is pray.” Not true. How about listening? Making a meal? Sending a card? Checking in on the hurting? And of course, always pray.
- Let us cry. A tissue would be nice.
- Offer empathy. But be honest. You DON’T know EXACTLY what we’re going through—what we feel. Because you’re not us. But you ARE human. And if you’re fully human, you’ve had grief. You know grief is painful. Say that. Say you’re sorry for our pain. Say you wish you could fix it but you know you can’t. Unless you can . . .
- Ask forgiveness and make amends. If you’ve truly sinned against another (using God’s word as your basis for judgment), if YOU have been the legitimate source of someone’s grief, confess and ask forgiveness. Ask what you can do to restore relationship. Because intimate relationships HEAL broken hearts. And broken relationships are often the cause of broken hearts.
- Don’t try to fix us. Because you can’t. It’s God’s job to heal us—to bring us through.
- Let God love through you. God wants to work through people like you—to be a tangible touch of comfort—to reach out and find out what helps. And if we say we don’t know? Just sit. Say you care. Your job is to offer compassion and prayer. Your job is to let people feel.
- Realize that healing from grief is a process. Be patient. Respect our differing growth rates. Maybe you’re more resilient than we. Maybe you can bounce back faster than we.
- Pray for wisdom about when to speak this truth to the suffering:
We’ll all be OK in the arms of our God and in the presence of His people who know how to love well.
We’ll all be even better, eventually. Our God will use all suffering for good—to grow us in our relationship with him—the One who realizes most of us still don’t completely understand and grasp so mighty a love. YET.