Monday, November 23, 2015

Friends of the Grieving

Dear friends,

You know that precious young-married girl next door? The one that always wears her huge smile with whatever she has on and is always radiant?! You know that "older" mom from church with her 3 kids in tow? And of course you know your beautiful best friend. The one you talk to almost daily and share everything with?

She just lost her baby.

The baby was born too early. The baby was sick. The baby fell asleep in the crib and never woke up.

Are you dreaming? No, it's actually a nightmare. Their nightmare and yet you're devastated.

You're heartbroken for them and with them. Your sadness and grief for their loss feels overwhelming and it's not even your journey to walk. But it is yours to share. A burden that you can help carry while they trudge through a deep valley.

What do you do when you see them? What do you say? Do you bring it up? Is it better not to say anything? So much confusion and uncertainty make it scary... awkward... uncomfortable.

First of all, remember that everyone grieves differently. There is no one way for them to grieve, and there is not one way that is best for you to respond. But, there are definitely some general guidelines I'd love to share from my own experience.

What to say and do:

  • PRAY FOR THEM-- For them to know the truth of His Word, for the Lord to be present in all decisions, for His promises to be evident in their lives, for her physical healing, for healthy grieving, for people to be the hands and feet of Jesus to serve them, for people to have grace, for them to have the support they need, for their memories to be sweet and strong, to be free of any guilt or fear, for the future of their family, for their marriage to be strengthened, for their friends and family to be loving and compassionate, for their walk with the Lord to be intimate, for redemption of their pain, for the Lord to use their pain for His glory, for the grieving grandparents and family members, for discernment and wisdom as they move forward, for restoration and healing... Cover them in prayer. 
  • Say few words ("I'm so sorry...", "We love you", "I'm praying for y'all..." if you are, "You are in my thoughts/ on my heart." That's about it! But be authentic.)
  • Be sensitive to your surroundings and the mood. (Are you at church? In a grocery store? What is appropriate for where you are?)
  • Be gentle and give them grace! This is uncharted territory.
  • Send a card or FB message telling them of the impact that their love, their faith, their child or their story has had on you
  • Show up. If there is an opportunity to bring a meal, cut their grass, drop off a gift card, or tangibly serve them, do it. Just don't overstep.
  • Defer to someone close to the family, but not the couple, to ask questions or clarify needs. Most families generally have someone that is helping organize the day to day needs.
If you know them well and are good friends in their circle (or you met the baby personally):
  • Do the above
  • Ask questions like "What did you love most about your time with him/her?", "What will you remember most about your time together?", "What was your favorite feature?", "What do you need?"
  • Be available and present.
  • Share in their tears. 
  • Bring up the baby (if you sense they'd like to talk). **The worst for me was when I felt like people acted like it hadn't happened. I later learned that they were fearful of making me cry, but they didn't realize that I was always on the verge of tears anyways and it would have been nice to cry with someone rather than do it alone. 
What not to say and do:
  • Do not try to fill the void. The most hurtful words are often the ones that people say carelessly or in an effort to comfort you. The problem is people don't realize they usually sound empty, condescending, or trite in the face of what you are walking. 
  • Do not say things reminding them of God's plan and purpose for their life. Sending them actual scripture is great, but not your interpretation of it. "God has a purpose in all of this", "God needed another angel" (people don't become angels), "He works all things together for the good", "He knows best", "God will never give you more than you can handle" (untrue!)
  • Do not comment on their reproductive abilities or ask when they are going to try for another baby. "You're young, honey. You can have another baby!" 
  • Don't show up unannounced or uninvited. Unless you are leaving a card or meal at their door, be sure to schedule with them.
  • Don't have certain expectations of how they will grieve. Everyone walks this road differently. Christian's grieve and weep and wonder why, too. Don't make them feel like they are "strong enough" that they need to be okay.
  • Don't ignore it or act like it didn't happen. A very real piece of their life is gone and even if it was a short time, their child graced this earth. They want to know that the life of their baby mattered. 
  • Don't stare or point. This seems easy enough, but unfortunately it happens.
Most importantly, love well and be discerning in your words and actions. Be encouraging in the reality that is now theirs and share in their burden. Our natural tendency is to want to do something, but often there is little that can be done. Prayer covers all!

As grieving people, we also have to have an abundance of grace for the good intentions of those around us. Stepping back into a different life is often scary and feels very exposed. It is a process of finding yourself in the grief and living again in the Lord's strength alone.


**This is not meant to be all encompassing or be true to every situation. As mentioned, everyone grieves differently, especially men and women. This is from my perspective as a woman, although my husband agrees with almost everything for him as well.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 


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