Monday, March 27, 2017

Hope for a Grieving Heart
Practical Advice When Speaking to a Person Experiencing a Loss
(Revised March 2017)
“Now you can have your pick of men.” This was said to me within months after losing my husband by a well-meaning person.  We have all been there, someone you know has lost a person close to them. You are standing there, face to face, and you don’t know what to say.  If you were like me, before my losses in life, you either…  
A. said nothing at all, gave a sad look and quickly left before you had to say something,
B. said the worst thing possible.
Anyone who has experienced loss will tell you they have had both A. and B. happen to them.  Most grieving people have learned to deal with this and make the most of things, but if you really want to minister to someone who has experienced loss, the following are just a few practical things that have helped not just me, but others I have spoken and ministered to. 
Don’t say “If you need anything call me.”  You may really mean what you are saying, but most grieving people use all of their energy getting from one minute of the day to the next. The thought of picking up to phone, and making a phone call is daunting, therefore most will never make the first move.  Most grieving people are really hoping that someone would care enough to call them, to check on them, to seek out what they need.
Don’t say “they are in better place.”  If the person who has passed was a Christian, this is certainly a true statement, and it may bring comfort later, but in the first days of a loss, it is not what a grieving person wants to hear.  All they can think about is missing their loved one, and wishing they were with them at that moment.  Instead say something like, “I know how much you are missing ___________, I am praying God will grant you peace that passes all understanding, and that God Himself will heal the hole in your heart that you are feeling with your loss.”  This acknowledges the loss and the pain that is associated with it, plus it offers prayers for peace, which truly can only come from God.
Do ask open ended questions:  don’t ask the question “how are you doing?”  You will usually get a “fine” and that is it.  Most grieving people don’t even quite know how to answer, and instead to trying to put words to what they are feeling, they say something that will make the conversation end so they can get out of it.  Ask a question, like “how are you holding up?” This type of question will usually get a more honest answer.  Ask about their struggles with something like “What is your biggest struggle today?” or “What do you need help with today?”
Do make yourself available, for when the grieving person wants to talk, or needs something.  Always make the first move.
In the initial days of a loss, even scripture can seem like platitudes. However well meaning, and appropriate it is.  Please go ahead and share scripture, write it down, not just the reference, but write out the passage.  Real comfort comes with time and the grieving person will come across this scripture when they need it most.

 Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Just being there, to listen and to cry with the person is usually all a grieving person is seeking.  

Send cards.  In the initial days of loosing a loved one, a grieving person will receive cards, however, those cards stop within days after the funeral.  It is a real comfort to receive a card weeks or even  months after the loss.

The main thing is the grieving person wants to know that you care, now is not the time to walk away, but to draw close.  Follow their lead; if they want to talk, listen. If they want to hear what you have to say, they will tell you.   
For those who are a few years into their grief journey, the rules change a bit.  You do not need to be there at every twist and turn on the road they walk.  As they heal, and begin to live life again, they may not want constant reminders that they are grieving.  Follow their lead, when they need to talk, be there to listen.  For widows especially, check to see if they need any help around the house. 

For all who have lost someone, there may be a daunting task involving taking care of the loved one's personal things.  Be available to help when they are ready to handle this task.
Mostly just be there, and always, pray, pray, pray.   

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dark Night of the Soul

Photo by Patty

As the anniversary of the death of the two most important men in my life looms ever so near, I think many times of the deepest, darkest nights I have experienced in the last five years when I lost both my husband and father just two days apart from each other. 

Many dark nights have come and gone, many times I have laid in bed, and prayed for the morning to come.  Dark nights followed by some dark days, but light does have a way of penetrating the dark.  Just as Jesus is the light of the world, His love also has penetrated the darkness in my soul. 

Photo by Patty

John 8:12-13 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

But what if you can’t feel His presence, or see the light through all of the darkness? Just what is that dark night of the soul?  I believe it is a point in life when you are at your most vulnerable, when light seems so far off that at that moment, you can’t even see it.  It is the point in time when God seems like He is not there, or if He is, you wonder, how much more will He give you before you actually break in a million pieces. 

Every year, during the month of March, it creeps up on me.  I begin the month saying it’s not so bad this year, it will be just fine, and then there it is, the darkness once again. 

This year, I was beginning to feel the sadness roll in my soul like fog, when today I had this overwhelming urge to pray for a cousin and her family.  I had constant reminders of the day I lost my husband, but it wasn’t the loss of my Dave I was feeling, it was something completely different.  Later, I found out my cousin lost her husband, suddenly, much like I lost Dave.  My feelings of loss came crashing in like a huge ocean wave, almost knocking me off of my feet.  Those feelings that I felt for myself, were then directed to her.  I knew exactly how she must be feeling, what her day would be like, the decisions she was having to make, and the reality that, she would be a widow, way before she should saddened me.  I thought of her first night without her husband, how hard that was for me, and now would now be her hard dark night.

We all have dark nights, dark days, and yes, even dark weeks/months.  But there is a light.  A light that, according to Revelation, is so bright there is no need for the sun.  

Revelation 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

Jesus Christ Himself is the light.  If we let Him, He will be our comfort, our strength, our rock, and someone who will carry us through the most difficult times. 
Photo by Patty

 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Jesus is also our hope.  He never promised that we would walk the road of the human life free from trouble, in fact he promised that we would have trouble, but we are to find courage in the fact that He Himself has overcome the world.  I find hope today that no matter what I will face, no matter how I feel, I can find hope and courage in Jesus.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So take courage today, no matter what you are going through.  What Jesus has for us on the other side is worth more than any trial, or dark night that we may face.  He has also promised that we do not walk this path alone, seek Him and He will be found. Trust Him, for He is trustworthy and true.

Photo by Patty