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Friday, June 10, 2005

Aiding the Grieving

When Death, like a gypsy, comes to steal what I love - I will still look to the heavens, I will still seek your face. But I fear you aren't listening, because there are no words: just a stillness, and a hunger, for a faith that assures.

I will sing of your mercies that lead me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

- Jars of Clay

Things that don't help:

Trite comments, such as "He's in a better place", "It was his time", or "I know how you feel". These are comments typically used by adolescents or those who do not want to really talk about it. While you may not fal into these two categories, they are the set you place yourself in with these trite answers.

Bible verses - yes, I know them. Knowing you'll get a new arm later doesn't make getting your arm cut off any less painful. Don't try to explain it, or say it is God's will, or other (true) things that are empty at that time.

Advice. This does not apply to written advice, which is often quite useful, because it is easier digested than some clown friend who is trying to help by asking about estate planning, 8 hours after the loved one's passing, on the phone.

Calling late at night. Wait until the next morning. To help with this, remember what time zone you and the bereaved are in.

Things that do help:

Making a specific offer of aid to the bereaved: "I'd like to mow your lawn - does next Tuesday work ok?"

Short phone calls, with an expression of support, offer of assistance if needed, and getting off of the phone. The phone never stops ringing, so make a call, make it a short one if you aren't prepared to come do some helping labor, and say goodbye. Stringing it out just makes it worse.

If you visit personally, don't just drop in. You have no idea what is going on or planned, so 'just stopping in' in stressful to the bereaved. Once past this, your comments should likely be oriented toward alowing the person an opportunity to express themselves, not to listen to you instead.

This is key - you can do little to help by talking, but can really increase the stress and/or grief temporarily by talking.

Your impulse when you hear of the person's death will be to call and ask, "What happened?" Do not do this. Almost everyone who calls does this. All it does is force the bereaved to recount the events that lead to the death. This repeated, agonizing reliving of the memory does not help the person, and soon they dread the phone ringing. We would log on to the net to avoid the phone, because everyone asked, "What happened?" Salve your curiosity through someone not so emotionally connected - it is not worth the heartache the bereaved goes through. Instead, find out what happened from some one else, then make the call similar to the recommendation above.

Very important: remember, everyone is trying to 'help' now. Remember to help in three months.

Sometimes the way is lonely, and steep and filled with pain. So when your sky is dark, and pours the rain: cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus, and live.
- Chris Rice


  • Yes, I can remember some of the assinine comments we received as a family from people at my mom's funeral (quite a few years ago). The comments are from people that mean well, to be sure, but they just missed the mark entirely or in odd ways were hurtful; and myself or my family are 'not easily bruised' by others' comments.

    Most people mean well, and I think that most people really want to help, both to be 'useful' and to ease the pain and grief.

    Few know what to say, and to be honest, the best thing to hear is 'I'm sorry for your loss' or 'my condolences' and maybe share a special moment, in brief, that you had with the deceased. Funerals and wakes are exhausting for the close relatives.

    And yes, specific offers of help are appreciated, not just a 'call me if you need something' gesture.

    Great post!

    By Blogger John B., at 6/11/2005 07:56:00 AM  

  • Very good advice for those who mean well during times of grief. You are right on.

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    By Blogger Jamie Dawn, at 6/12/2005 12:04:00 AM  

  • Love you Hammer and are praying for you all's healing hearts! Thanks for your comments over the "religion" thing, I think I got a little long winded. I hope you got my e-mail. Was not sure it would work...

    By Blogger Teresa, at 6/12/2005 05:49:00 PM  

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