Yesterday I experienced grief close up yet again. My dear friend's 9-year-old granddaughter gained her angel wings after two years of fighting and gaining victory over osteosarcoma. I felt an overwhelming need to do something, anything, to be of service. I drove over with a Dr. Pepper and visited with my friend early in the morning and later, went to her daughter's home. This sweet strong woman whose faith has inspired so many is now dealing with HER daughter's death. I used to rock her and keep her and love on her when SHE was a little girl. The heartbreak and overwhelming grief of losing a child, your own flesh, is something no one ever imagines going through. I cannot even imagine losing a precious grandchild.
How can I help them? I just need to do something. So I helped the sisters clean and organize and prepare for the onslaught of well-meaning people who also need to do something. We all pray for this sweet family feeling like this is one of the only things we can do. (as if praying is not enough).
What would I say to my dear friend and her family?
1. We aren't grieving for our loved ones; we are grieving for ourselves because we miss their presence so much. As people of faith, it's important for others to see that in us. We don't grieve in the same way as those who have no hope in the Lord.
2. GRIEVE-we are one of few cultures in the world where grieving openly is not an accepted practice. We cry in private and muffle our moans and deep inner pain. If you don't allow yourself (and if others don't allow you) to grieve, that grief will manifest itself in some other way. Think of grief as a horrible open sore. In the beginning, it hurts so badly, you don't even think you can breathe. You can't cover it or put a bandage on it. Everything makes it worse, and it's all you can think about. Then it starts to scab a little, and any little memory can rip that scab off, and the wound is back to square one. This happens over and over and over. Right now, you can't even fathom that the wound will ever start healing.
3. People do for you because they want to. You don't have to write a thank you note for every card someone sends you. In fact, just the act of writing those notes is exhausting. Give yourself a break and know that others will too.
4. Let others take care of you right now. When you are a very independent person who is used to taking care of things and others, it is often hard to give the reins over to someone else. You are having trouble even wrapping your mind around living without your child. Everything else is periphery.
5. Take care of yourself-eat, stay hydrated, and remember your body is going through a very traumatic time. It takes its toll, and you need all of your energy to get through the first few days, weeks, and months.
6. Talk about your child. Encourage others to join in the conversation. One of my fears was that my son would be forgotten. People sort of tip-toe around their names like it's some kind of sacred ground they shouldn't tread on. Lead them into conversations about your child.
7. Above all, lean on God, trust your faith and keep taking a step, a breath, a step, and another breath. God's right here with us especially in our darkest hours. In fact, that is when He carries us. When people say, I could never go through what you are going through-they don't know what they are saying. We don't have a choice, so when death happens, we just keep moving knowing that our God is a God of mercy and grace.
My dear friend, I am here for you and your family. I love you and know the depth of your loss.
We will be reunited in Heaven: When Paul writes to believers who grieve the loss of a loved one, he offers them this comfort: “We who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)