Help for the Grieving. (Early morning phonecalls - #6)
So, the phone call came, and it brought news of tragic loss or death. And you are asking yourself, ‘Am I always going to feel this way?’ Well, no… but, when a loss is permanent, it does bring a sense that something really has ended. It is true that we might try to resist or avoid the reality, but when something is final we do have to make a new life without its existence.1
Of course, we know there are stages of grief—from shock, sometimes anger, disbelief, and ultimately, varying stages of acceptance, and adjusting to life after such tremendous loss. There are a few things that seem to help in the highly-individualized process of grief following death: 1) staying physically healthy – maintaining a nutritious diet, endeavoring to get good sleep, and exercising a little each day; 2) honoring the loss through finding a way to carry on loved one’s memory or legacy; 3) refraining from judging emotional response—your own or other family members. Remember everyone grieves differently, and sometimes out of sight; 4) keeping communication open with family/loved ones, about how each is managing; and 5) being patient with others who are at a loss for what to say or do. *Be clear with family and friends as to how they can help you, as most want to help, and they can be a tremendous support!2,3
‘But, but…’ you say, ‘how about me? I need help coming alongside my grieving friend! Can you suggest some things?’ First, do not stay away! Sometimes because people do not know what to say or do, they do nothing. Check in on your grieving friend; do not wait for her to come to you. Don’t hesitate to bring up the lost loved one’s name, for fear you will make the person cry—trust me, if it is a recent loss, he is already thinking about him! Ask your grieving friend if there is some specific thing you can do or need you can meet. And be sure to avoid placing any time limit in your own mind about how long your friend should be grieving.
You may have your own perspective on what the grieving person should be doing or how he or she should be responding. Revise your expectations. You are not the other person or an authority on the individual’s responses. Accept grieving people and let them know their feelings are normal. ‘Need some words? “I hope you feel the freedom to express your sorrow in tears in front of me. I won’t be embarrassed or upset. I just want to be here with you.”
Oh, and touch is so meaningful. One grieving woman wrote, ‘…your mind is still on crutches … There is something awe-inspiring, silencing, and shattering about emotional pain that does leave one at a loss for words. Perhaps gestures are better. I’ve mentioned before my need for hugs. I’m sure other people feel the same way. Human physical comfort, no strings. I saw a cartoon once, no caption … It was a vending machine; the sign on it read: “Hugs 25 cents.” I wish I could have one installed.”4
And one of the greatest gifts we can give to those who hurt, those who grieve is the gift of listening. In Proverbs, we read, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them.”5 Listening really is a gift that we need to develop and give to others—especially those who have experienced great loss. There are the words spoken, but also the attitudes and feelings that accompany them. Listen with your ears and your eyes and your heart, my friends. Seek to understand, for the other person, not for yourself. Do not respond with “I know how you feel,” but rather, “I’m sorry—I know how you loved her…” giving him a chance to elaborate if he wants.
There is only One who truly understands, and that is Jesus. Encourage your grieving friend to reach out to God in prayer. God is close to the broken hearted—that’s a promise!6 And as our Lord’s brother, James wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”7 And please, do not forget to regularly carry your friend to God in prayer.
1 – Recovering from the Losses in Life, H. Norman Wright, Revell, 2006.
2 – “Real Stages of Grief,” Will Meek, Ph.D, Psychology Today, October 18, 2012
3 – “Grieving the Loss of a Child,” Dr. David Hawkins, www.crosswalk.com - this article is particularly good for a couple who has just lost a child.
4 – Betty Jane Wylie, The Survival Guide for Widows, Ballantine Books, 1982.
5 – Proverbs 20.12, Amplified Bible.
6 – Psalm 34.18
7 – James 4.8