Monday, December 17, 2012

Loving Those Who Are Grieving

As I shared last week, 2011 was a tumultuous year for us.  By the end of it, our family was reeling and definitely ready for a fresh start in the new year.  I found myself often saying in December, "2011 can be over already.  I'm ready to move on!"  And we were ready!  I felt like I took on more in 2011 then I could have ever handled.  It was purely by the grace of God that one of us didn't crack.

This past year has marched on for all of us.  But for some of us, it's marched to a different beat.  Not necessarily bad, just not the one we would have liked.  There have been reminders along the way of those we've lost: how my cousin loved to be at Grandma's with the family, how my uncle was always in charge of organizing us to get Christmas trees, and how in making my Christmas card list, I still write down Grandpa Gisi out of habit.  And in remembering these men, I've been reminded of old losses as well.  A grandfather, another uncle, teammates, friends, and miscarriages.

The holidays can be a very lonely take if someone is grieving.  Even for those of us whose grief isn't fresh, the holidays have a way of catching us by surprise and reminding us that things are quite like they used to be.  And death isn't the only grief that can marr the holidays.  Right now, I have a friend who's little boy is in the hospital.  He's their first and was born with sever complications.  This holiday will be a trying for their family.  Or the wife who's husband is overseas.  Or the family who finds themselves in a new town.  All these situations can bring us to a place of grieving.  And the holidays simply magnifies that pain.

So I would challenge you to look around this holiday season.  Who in your midst is grieving this year?  Who in your life can you touch and help bring healing?

As a reminder to all of us, these are just a few ideas for reaching out this holiday season.  And beyond into the coming 2013:

Take the initiative--Often times if someone is grieving, they are incapable of reaching out.  Day to day tasks me be all they can handle.  Don't wait for them to come to you.  Take the initiative and call.  Even if you don't know what to say, know that your call maybe just wait they need to get through the day.

Drop off a freezer meal--Carrying grief is exhausting.  Add onto that weight the addition tasks of Christmas, especially for parents who are trying to keep the holidays as normal as possible for their kids.  Drop off a meal that can be thawed and used whenever the days just becomes too much.

Offer to watch the kids--Offer to watch the kids while they run errands.  Maybe the family needs to make funeral arrangements or a couple just needs to regroup.  Or maybe the adults just need an afternoon to cry with no one in the house to hear them.

Go to the cemetery with them--This is a hard one.  And not everyone will take you up on it.  But cemeteries are lonely.  Part of being a friend is going to the hard places together.  And there are few harder places than a cemetery.

Drop off a treat, just because--Maybe you've been praying about it and you feel like you have to do something, but you're just struggling with how to move forward.  Why not drop by with your friend's favorite coffee?  Or a new bottle of scented lotion?  Think about that little things that can brighten someone's day without a lot of money or time.

Don't pretend to understand--Sometimes I'd hard to listen and not offer advice.  Ok, it's almost always hard to not offer advice.  But no matter how many times you may have worked through your own grief, your friend's grief is unique to them.  Allow your loved ones to talk without having to censor and process in their own. way.

Have a listening ear--In the same way, try to listen multiple times more than you speak.  Often speaking things aloud without interruption is the healthiest way for people to process through their grief.  Don't be afraid of someone's sadness.  Allow them to express their anger, hurt, and pain in their own words.

Don't tell them that it's time to move on--Don't allow your timeline to dictate how your friend should feel.  Some of the hardest conversations have been when someone says something revealing they believe I should be done grieving.  That immediately cuts off communication.  We all work through our pain our own time.  Be respectful of someone else's timeline.

These ideas are just a start.  Take the situation into careful prayer.  Know that grief is something we all must walk through and allow the Lord to grow you in ministering to others.

How will you reach out to those grieving this holiday season?

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