Monday, December 27, 2010

Helpful Hints for Those Ministering to Grieving Hearts...

While I am not an expert on thing I have had plenty of experience in these past 17+ months is the grieving process. Everyone grieves differently; some openly, some in private, and some...well...not at all. (I'll talk about that last one a little later.)

I haven't written in my blog for a while because I have felt the need to draw near to the Lord even more so now than ever. It seems that the second year for me has been more difficult than the first. For a time, I lost my desire to write...and I still don't feel as though I will continue on a consistent basis, but I felt the Lord prompting me to write about how someone might be able to reach out to a friend or loved one who is hurting due to the loss of their spouse.

Since becoming a widow, I have taken the journey and become friends with a few ladies who, sadly, have joined this elite club. I am no expert, as I said previously, but I have walked the road for a time now and am familiar with it's inevitable twists and turns so I have some insight into "the process". I have had people contact me as a result of this and ask me if I can offer some advice on how a person may help someone who is hurting due to the loss of a spouse.

Here is what I always start with:

#1 - BE IN PRAYER for them, and also ask the Lord to show you how you may be of comfort to them.

#2 - BE SILENT. Words mean NOTHING to someone who has just lost a spouse. You can have the best of intentions in trying to relate to their level of loss, but your words will only reach the exterior of a person's brain at this point. Even if you have lost a spouse yourself, your experience of loss is still very different than someone else's experience so you can't assume you know exactly what they are going through. If the deceased was a believer, it is appropriate to rejoice to some degree that they are in the presence of the Lord. If the person who is the widow/widower is rejoicing and feeling a sense of relief, take your queue from them and rejoice with them. If the rejoicing is not being expressed outwardly by them, my advice is to be cautious when offering your comfort in the form of words.

#3 - BE PRESENT. Observe how the person is grieving and act accordingly. Maybe they just need you to be in the room, or cook for them (this could be especially wonderful if they have small children that need to be cared for), or clean the house, or grocery shop...the Lord will give you discernment on how best to make yourself available to a grieving widow/widower. (NOTE: Grocery shopping was a big one for me. I couldn't make it down one aisle of the grocery store without losing it and having to walk out because that is where I shopped for anything my husband wanted to or could eat in those last months. If the person you are concerned about was a caregiver for someone with a long-term illness, this may be an area that you can be of greater use because the grocery store can be a HUGE trigger.)

#4 - BE AVAILABLE. At the time of loss everyone, friends and family alike, make themselves available for service or to be of help and comfort in some capacity but after the funeral is over, as would be expected, people get back into their own daily routines, work, ministry, etc. and life carries on and they are not as available as they were originally. These are the times when the loneliness sets in because the grieving person is still feeling as though time has stopped for them. The person grieving is the one who is watching on the sidelines while everyone else is living. Be mindful to possibly include the person at your dinner table, or ask them if they want to take a walk around the block, but if the person is reluctant to go anywhere or do anything, make yourself available to just sit with them and see where time, prayer and conversation take you. The Lord is faithful to bring comfort to grieving people through His people. Be the extension of Him and you will see first hand that the blessing does not just come to the person who is heartbroken.

There are many stages to can google it and you will see that most websites say that there are five stages, but others say seven...but honestly, the person that is grieving feels like there are a million stages because they all happen ALL the time, and the order is not the same for each person, and most of the time each stage has a little bit of ALL the stages mixed in. This is when the person that is grieving feels most like a schizophrenic. Grief is not orderly, polite or conscious of time. It is most often messy, forceful, and demanding of time and energy. It will not be ignored.

I said at the beginning of this entry that I would address the issue of the people who do not grieve. It isn't that they are not grieving...oh, but they are! But they are choosing not to grieve by avoiding the situation and the feelings that come with it. They are the hurting people that will just about do anything not to allow themselves the full experience of grieving because it is far too painful.

They often try to replace the emptiness with something else like shopping, traveling, sex, sometimes using drugs (legal or otherwise) and alcohol in order to escape their pain. BUT, these are the people that you need to be aware of and really be prayerful as to how the Lord can use you to encourage them to allow themselves to go through the process; and then assure them that they will not be alone. It's the "being alone" part that usually has them running scared. So, try to be that source of encouragement and stability that they need in order to feel like it's okay to grieve.

Lastly, there are many people who are grieving that just "ride the waves", trusting the Lord to uphold them and help them to keep moving forward...BUT it is still an extremely difficult process even though the person is a believer and is trusting the Lord, walking closely with the Lord, and allowing the Lord to lead the way. The Lord doesn't remove the agony of grief just because we know Him well. The process is still the process as designed by Him. Painful, messy, lonely, dark, heavy...those are some of the words I have used to describe the beast that is grief. But, the Lord IS ABLE...

This process was designed by the Lord to allow those that grieve to draw near to Him and allow HIM to heal our hearts and fill that void in our lives. His people acting as the extension of Him is how He accomplishes that healing.

Please ask the Lord how you may be of use to someone grieving today.