God Direction

















I am by no means an expert on this subject. I am writing this because of experiences and situations that God continues to put me in. The last one has prompted me to learn more about grief. I have always been scared to help people who are grieving. What do I say? What do I do? I'm the type of person who wants to fix things. If I see something wrong I fix it. But how do you fix grief? The reality is you can't and that scares me. Now what do I do?

As I mentioned before, my last experience with grief has prompted me to learn more. To help you understand let me first tell you that this Lent I felt led to follow the advice of God Direction 18 which I wrote after this experience. I choose to let go of everything this Lent and give it all to God. I knew this would be difficult but I felt the desire to let God lead me fully. To follow His will for my life. This will take time to do and I have strayed from the subject. Anyway one Saturday morning after prayer group, I was on my way home and saw a car parked alongside the road. OK, God is testing me; will I take this opportunity to serve? I stopped and walked to the car. I soon noticed that a young woman was crying. A little nervous, I proceeded to walk up to the car and ask "can I help you?" She slowly gained her composure and proceeded to tell me that she just needed to get away and scream. Her husband died the night before and the house was full of family and she just had to get away. At this time I had the feeling of drowning. I am way over my head. Now what? I didn't know her and she didn't know me and I could tell she was uncomfortable, probably because I was noticeably uncomfortable. I asked if I could do anything for her and of course she said no. Now I am off the hook right? That's not how I felt. I honestly wanted to help but didn't know what to do or say. I told her I would pray for her.

I have thought about that moment ever since. What else could I have done? Now I know a little more and would have done things a little differently.

As I have learned, grief is a process of various stages with no clear lines or boundaries between each stage. The person can even jump from one to the other in no particular order and can experience many at the same time. This makes it very difficult to know what to do. The death of a loved one turns life upside-down in an instant. Emotions explode and responsibilities are overwhelming, making it difficult to know when we should reach out or when we should give a little space. Here is some advice that I have learned:

Don't presume to think that you can now guide someone through the grief process. The process is different in each person and they should be allowed to progress at their own speed. It can last as little as a couple of months to as long as a couple of years. They will never be the exact same as they were before the death. If you suspect that they are stuck, help them by suggesting counseling or a support group and then get the information for them.

There are things that you can say or do that are hurtful. But you can simply say "I'm so sorry for your loss." Avoid saying things like "This is God's will, they would not want you to cry, or they are in a better place." It is not helpful to presume to know God's will or the emotional state of the one grieving. Don't just throw Bible verses at them expecting that to help. They may be angry with God at this point. The reality is there is nothing you can say or do that will fix the problem, so don't even try.

Don't say things like "just call if you need anything" with this blanket statement you have let yourself off the hook. Now the burden is on the one suffering grief instead of on you. You've offered now you can sleep at night. This is very insensitive. The grieving person may not only be too distraught to sort out or remember who offered to help but they don't even know if it was sincere or not.

Things that you can do are offer specific help and follow through with it. Be sensitive to the person's needs. Offer to prepare a meal, name the time and day that you can do it if they would like, provide a ride for them or loved ones to and from the airport, or offer to do household chores like clean, including the bathroom, cutting the grass or sorting things out. Find out what they need and offer to do it for them. Make a specific offer, do not make them call you and ask for help, the grieving process can be so overwhelming that they can't do even the menial tasks. Be sensitive to their feelings, say things like "if that is convenient for you." Do not force yourself on them in areas that they don't feel comfortable with you helping.

Be there to listen. Be careful not to give advice. All they need is someone to listen. Allow them to cry, reassure them that what they are feeling is normal,  they aren't crazy. Do not try to answer the questions of why, or why me, or where is God, or Why did God let this happen, just listen. Let them express the anger and bitterness that they are feeling.

Encourage the grieving person to rest and to hold off on any major decisions. The emotional distress is draining and impairs their ability to think clearly and make decisions.

Be aware of the times that the person will miss their loved one. Holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions can trigger grief even many years after the fact.

Here are some specific Ideas from the web site recover-from-grief.com
  • Take over a baked ham, or a plate of sandwiches, hand it to them in person with a hug.
  • Bake 3 dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  • Offer to clean up the place for them, and do it (even the bathroom)
  • Spend an evening with them playing cards or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Take the kids to the zoo, bowling or the movies
  • Take the bereaved person out for a walk in the fresh air. Let them talk and don't interrupt
  • Sit them down and help pay the bills and balance the checkbook.
  • Help them make a "to-do" list for the coming week
  • Let them know you are bringing over a spaghetti dinner one night, complete with salad and garlic bread.
  • Offer a big hug and let them cry on your shoulder... and don't tell them "everything will be alright.
  • If you feel that your friend is "losing it" and unable to cope or function, or using drugs or too much alcohol to cope, urge them to get professional help and help them find the resources.
Here is some advice from a friend who has experienced loss:
  • Stopping by just to listen or to be leaned on is very important and helpful.
  • After awhile offer to take them out to eat.
  • Something that was helpful was cards on the birthday of their loved one and anniversary of their death letting them know that they are not alone in their grief.
  • Don't stop talking about the lost loved one thinking they don't want to remember, they can't forget. Talk about the memories that you have, this may bring tears but they are tears of healing.
  • Help the grieving by spreading the news of the loss and any news of scholarships or memorials to people they know. They won't want to make those calls.
Please remember these are only suggestions. Not every situation is the same. Approach each with love and compassion. You do not need to be afraid, pray for God's guidance then go with confidence knowing that God is faithful.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.1

Let's Pray: Father God, I feel uncertain that I can help someone who is grieving but I want to. Use me. Put the words in my mouth or take the words from me if I should be quiet, give me patience to listen and show me how I can help. In Christ's Name I pray, Amen.
You may want to also veiw:
1The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Co 13:4-7). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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