When she saw me coming she wavered. Before we even started hugging she was releasing her pent up tears. It would continue for the next hour or so. Her melting into the arms of friends and family. It’s a lot of emotion for one person to carry alone. Here she was, saying goodbye to two of the most important women in her life. Within the span of one week both her grandma and her mom had died. And now she was doing calling hours and funerals and grave-side services. That’s a lot of emotion for one person to carry alone.
But she doesn’t have to. We are there. Holding up some of the burden with her. Her community is surrounding her – her husband, her pastor, her friends, her extended family. We are there. And, that’s it really. We are just being there – some of us physically and many of us in spirit. It’s a powerful thing to know you’re not alone when you’re hurting.
A lot of people have been asking me what they need. How we can help. We want to DO something. Something tangible. To take some of that ache away. To carry just a little bit of the burden for her.
It’s a beautiful scene really, watching people want to surround her like that.
As I’ve been reflecting on it, a few things have come to mind. I’m no grief counselor, mind-you. Just a friend watching another friend struggle through a month full of sorrows.
- Pray. Like for real. For them and with them. Sometimes we feel like praying is the “only thing we can do right now.” Like it’s the second-best option since there is nothing else we can do. Can I just take a sec to remind you that approaching the throne of grace to talk to the wise, loving, all-powerful King of the universe on someone else’s behalf is NOT second-best? Go to Him and ask Him to scoop her up into His strong arms and comfort her in her time of need. Do it often and tell her that you’ve done it. And, when you can, do it with her. She might sob through the whole thing but there is something very moving about being prayed for with people you love and trust.
- See if there are any tangible needs that they do have right now. But be specific and be patient. Sometimes they don’t know WHAT they need. They’re too overwhelmed to make sense of lots of “what do you need” requests. Right now, my grieving friends have meals coming regularly through the wonderful website Take Them A Meal. And they are getting help with the daily needs of their kids. Those are the two most urgent needs that most families have in times of crisis. Beyond that, they just need to get through the week and let the dust settle.
- Offer to take things off of their to-do list. If she was supposed to run the PTA bake sale this weekend, offer to take it over for her. But don’t assume. She might WANT to do something mindless and unrelated to hospitals and funeral homes. Cleaning her house might be a burden that she would be blessed to have done by someone else. On the other hand, it might be very therapeutic for her to get on her hands and knees and scrub the floor. Ask, sincerely offer, even push a little bit to let her know you’re serious; but don’t assume.
- Text, email or facebook them just to let them know you care about them. A simple message can go a long way. But don’t be hurt if they don’t reply. They probably won’t. Because they just can’t always.
- If you really want to do something tangible but the meal schedule is already full and they are covered on childcare, think outside the box. Maybe a gift card for a family outing or dinner out would be nice for them to look forward to once the dust has settled a bit. Tuck it inside a card with words of love and encouragement. And mail it! In this digital age of ours, a real card with handwriting is a precious gift! The most important thing is just the communication that you are “in it” with them. Grief can be a lonely, tiring place.
Remember that as you come alongside hurting people in your life, you are showing them a little bit of God Himself. You are messengers of His grace and love for them. Just be willing to be used as He leads you. And, that will make all the difference.