Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Miserable Comforters

David at his sister's wedding. No photos of David will be taken when his other sister gets married or any other time.

“I have heard this all before.  What miserable comforters you are!”  Job 16:2 NLT

When David passed away the prayers and sympathies came.  Meals were dropped off, our driveway was plowed, and offers came in to help in whatever way they could.  By enlarge people were very kind and caring to our family.  But there were those that made the journey of grief a little more difficult to bear.  We prayed that we would be gracious to those that wounded us. 

It has been almost three and a half years since I got that call and realized this side of heaven I will never physically see David again.  Even now I think about David every day.  My life will never be the same which is not good or bad, only different. 

It can be especially hard when your child passes and the world sees it as a weakness on his or her part or that you must have done something wrong.  Suicide, accidental overdose, addictions, and the like paint a picture of your not so perfect family.  I’d like to offer points to remember when ministering to the families that have lost a loved one no matter what the circumstances behind their death were. 

  •      There is no usual time frame to grieve.  It can come in waves and little things can trigger one of the grieving stages years down the road. Birthdays, anniversary of their passing, a special place they liked, seeing a picture of them, having your first grandchild, and the list goes on.  You may do “well” and then something may trigger a new wave of grief like thinking about how you will never take a full family picture again.
  •      There is no usual way to grieve.  All members of the family will grieve in different ways and even at different times.  Grieving really didn’t start  for me until months later after the autopsy report came back, and it hit me the hardest after two people were sent to prison because of David’s death,  which didn’t happen till over a year after his death.
  •      Don’t worry what to say to the family because often you shouldn’t say much of anything.  Something similar to, “I’m so sorry for your loss”, and giving them a hug is all that is needed.  Often the only other words  you should say would be to tell them something good that you remember about their child or sibling.
  •      Don’t make their loss about you.  They really want you to be there for them.  They especially don’t want to hear the hoops you jumped  through just to be there for them.
  •      Be there for them in the short run.  Be available without being pushy.  Offer without insistence.
  •      Help in practical ways.  Offer to drop off a meal or run to the store for them.  If they let you, clean their bathrooms or help with laundry.
  •      Be there for the long haul.  They may not need or want help in the beginning but months down the road they may need a meal because they are having a down day or week.  Check in with them to see if there’s anything they need.  
  •      If you really don’t know them, don’t ask what happened.  Even if you do know them, wait for them to offer.  This is especially true if their loved one died under less than desireable circumstances due to an addiction, suicide, or something like that.
  •      Be careful what you say while waiting in line to pay your respects. Things like how long the line is, or having to get back to work, or just talking about a fun weekend coming up could be overheard by the family or a relative of the family. 
  •      Show up for the service or visitation if you are able.  Even if you just see them for 1 minute, that means the world to them.
  •      Give them a sympathy card and pray for them regularly.  Also, remember to sign the book including your address.  Keep your cell phone on vibrate or better yet silent.
  •      If you can, pray for them regularly and for a long time.  
  •      Lastly, don’t expect them to ever be done “grieving” or “move on”.  Yes, they will be done “grieving” and “move on”, but episodes of grief will happen from time to time and like I said their life will never be the same.  It won’t be better or worse, just different.

     I urge you to read this profound article by Kay Warren about a year after the passing of her son, Matthew, that died from suicide.  Her son had the same diagnosis that my son, David, had.
   Prayer:  Lord, help me to continue to be gracious when others are not so sensitive to the circumstance surrounding my child's death.  Help me to not be a "miserable comforter" even after it's been awhile since the passing of someones loved one.
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  1. Thank you so much for these suggestions and for pointing us to the Kay Warren article. Both are so helpful. Although I have never faced such a circumstance, I have faced grief and loss. I lift you up in prayer along with all other families who have experienced similar losses.

  2. Thank you Brenda and for your prayers. Sooner or later we all face grief and loss and until that happens sometimes others don't really know how to respond. I happened upon Kay's article when I was reading the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) newsletter that I received right after I finished my rough draft. God's perfect timing.