Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Grief is a strange animal.

I attended a funeral today, and I think the anticipation was almost worse than the funeral itself. Ever since my Dad died, I've dreaded funerals, for a myriad of reasons. And this one, today, for a father who left behind children was even harder. It was too easy to identify with them. That old edge of grief returned to me, cutting me, reminding me that it's never really gone, and Dad's loss today is still as hard, sometimes, as it was in the beginning.

I know something of what that family is going through; and yet, I can't fathom the depth of their pain. And I know that there are no words that comfort or reach through the cloud they walk within.

There is no balm to soften the sharpness of that razor's edge.

There is nothing to stop the deep, resonating sting.

There is nowhere for the sadness to go.

In the book of Job, as he sits, grieving for the loss of his material wealth and, more importantly, his family, his friends approached him. They joined him in his grief, sat with him, and wept with him.

That was the ONLY right thing they did. And it's what they should have continued to do.

Today I almost felt guilty, thinking of my own father's funeral, and yet, it's my grief for him that has allowed me to feel so much for this family. Our own losses give us the ability to emphathize with another, and therefore, in some sense, sit with another in the ashes of their lives and grieve with them, weep with them, and join our sorrows, even in silence.

And on the day of the funeral, it's easy to tell someone we are there, but in speaking for experience, we need to know that people remain there even in the weeks and months to come.

I think that's why I had such a hard time with my Dad's death; just after he died, I returned to school, "life as normal" but it was anything BUT normal. Certinaly, it's important to have a routine, but I literally had no support network. I had no one to go to. I didn't trust anyone, not even God.

In essence, there was no one sitting in the ashes with me, and although there were a few who were maybe willing, I didn't know how to let them in. I think that's still something I struggle with.

So my prayer for this family is that they remain close to each other, that their friends remain close to them, and that, in the weeks and months to come, their needs are met by all those who love them. Because without others around to show the grieving the very love of Christ, the lonliness of that time can be too much to bear.

If you know someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, don't be afraid to check up on them every so often, and renew your offers to be of assistance in some way, and even share your memories of the deceased. The little things mean the most, and you may find that the little things build trust, which leads to hope, which may lead that person to finally come to you when they hit the inevitable wall.

Most importantly; just be present.

I observed tonight, in speaking with some coworkers that grief doesn't really go away or get better; we only learn how to deal with it. They have also lost parents and know what it's like. And that experience unites us, wherever we are. Inevitably we all have to face our own grief while grieving for and with another, and it helps us to remember what we lacked so that we can fill that need in another. We can look into their eyes and maybe know that no words are necessary because a hug says enough. And we maybe can see that they need a comforting word, or a memory to share or even a friend to stand near for a moment or two. These are important lessons, which can only be learned through our own suffering.


angelmeg said...

One of my new phrases to live by is the greatest present you can give anyone is the gift of presence.

More often than not we rush in with material help when what is needed is just for us to be there physically. As the Job story reminds us, to stand in the ashes.

I don't know that I agree about grief never going away. I think there is a sense that it is a bitter part of our existence at first and eventually it becomes bittersweet. My father died nearly 35 years ago. The sting of loss isn't nearly as strong anymore, but this last year when my uncle died (his younger brother) I felt a sharp pain because I knew something of what they would suffer, and on top of that I was a bit jealous that they had had thier father so much longer than I had mine. It changes as we learn to deal with it.

It also helps to share it. I read a book easily twelve years after my dad's death that really helped me in my greiving process. I now share that book with every friend I know whose parents die because of how much it helped me. It is one thing I can do to make their burden a little lighter.

uncle jim said...

my mother died in my younger brother's arms ... on his birthday.
i'm sure he feels her loss in some way more than i do ... i was miles and hours away from the event - he was right there.

my father died, not quite in my arms, but with me at his bedside ... on my birthday [and his own, as well as my twin brother].

my twin was not present but was actually about to walk out his door headed to the airport to come, as we had called him and told him the end was imminent.

i think i feel it a little more than he does, my having been there when it happened.

but for all, the pain is significant - and the presence of others does help ameliorate it.

your being present for that family means so much to them. it helps give value to the life of the deceased, in that his life was significant enough for you to come and grieve with the family.

may his soul rest in peace.

and our parents, too - may they be at rest in the presence of their maker.

Melody said...

Angelmeg is right that "..the greatest present you can give anyone is the gift of presence." People often feel awkward with visiting with the bereaved, feeling that they don't know what to say. It doesn't matter that much. It's being there that counts. When we lost Mom, we were comforted by those who cared enough to be with us. Some probably made well-intentioned but inane comments. I don't really remember what they said. But I remember that they were there.

adoro said...

angelmeg & melody ~ Exactly my point, and thanks for your additions. It's that job of "sitting in the ashes" with another that makes the biggest difference.

Uncle Jim ~ Wow. First, I didn't realize you were a twin! And secondly...what a way to lose one's parents, and yet what a gift, for at least one of you to be present with them in their last moments. And still my heart goes out to you. Our losses are always hard, and you're right...being present with someone in their loss helps give dignity to the one who has passed on.