Sunday, July 07, 2013

How To Help the Grieving

Note: I began writing this post over a month ago – pardon the time lags.

Today I learned my son is dead. Missing since December, his body was found and identified this week.

This blog post on grieving was to have been full of sage observations of how folks have come along side and comforted grieving parents, spouses, siblings, friends. Not a new experience for me, but this is the first time losing an adult child, and I’ve been experiencing this comfort first hand.

Matthew left behind a wife, three young children, parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, church family, co-workers and many, many friends.

We are stunned, grieved and relieved all at once. The waiting is over. Some ugly possible scenarios turned out not to be true, but many questions remain. Was it alcohol? A mental crisis? Could we have done something to change the outcome? God knows, and we leave it in His hands.

So – here are my previous ideas interspersed with what folks have been doing for us these past few weeks;

Put the pie on the table, sit in the corner and wait for us to come to you. (Novelist Michael Walsh during an interview on 3/14/13). Be there for them. Show up and shut up. (Hugh Hewitt, interviewer of Michael Walsh.) This particularly regards recent and sudden death. Grieving families can be overwhelmed in group situations, just being there counts. You don’t have to say much more than, “I’m sorry.” Profound isn’t what is required, being there is.

Our family appreciated the food, cards, phone calls, visits, texts, and Facebook posts. Facebook, in particular was a great way to communicate swiftly and at great distance – we have friends around the world and were blessed by their support and prayers. We also appreciated those of you who forgave us for overlooking you – my brain was certainly fried, and I thought I’d contacted everyone…

Listen, because the grieving are angry, scared and confused – all at once. They may trust God implicitly, but how that should work out in real time is something different all together. Pray over them. Pray for them. For comfort, encouragement and a way forward.

Hold them. Give them hand squeezes. Bear hugs that go on and on. Sitting shoulder to shoulder. Sit and drink together; Hot cocoa, iced tea, fizzy soft drinks or coke and rum. Be willing to talk. Don’t be afraid to remember.

Books can encourage. Give them with the good parts bookmarked and highlighted. They’ll read it when they’re ready. It you are desperate to impart some gem immediately, read the passage to your friend when you visit, then leave the book. The ‘ah hah!’ may come later. Maybe not. I can now recommend Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen, a picture book about grief for adults (and given to me by a StandUp parent).

Decide how much time to spend with your friend. An initial burst of support may be helpful, but if you want to be there for the long haul, pace yourself so you don’t burn out and your friend doesn’t grow tired or become annoyed with you. Some move through their grief quickly, others can take a good long time. Be flexible.; Take Them a Meal is a website where you can schedule meals to be taken to a person in need. It’s free and there is the ability for people to see what days are available and what others are bringing so there aren’t repeats. Also included are recipes, ideas of how to package and present a meal, as well as other things that can be done to help out a family.

This is long, and some of these thoughts are random – but I’m finding, for me, this is part of the grieving process – being random, accident prone, forgetful.
Two days ago, Saturday, we had Matthew’s memorial service. It was wonderful. A conglomeration of his friends and co-workers, our friends, family (some we had never met – our son was adopted), folks from StandUp Parenting, and our churches. I left the service being energized by all the love and wonderful memories. Thank you.