In our “From Pain to Purpose” ministry, we connect with many people who find themselves hitting the bottom in hopelessness and despair. My husband and I have wept and prayed with many individuals suffering heart-wrenching losses.
Countless scenes from the last few months flash through my mind…
I think of the altar that was filled with women and young girls who came forward to acknowledge that they had been sexually abused. Tears were streaming down their faces and sobs were heard as they kneeled, broken before God, asking for healing from the horrific pain and shame that had gripped them.
I think of the inmate who brokenly shared about how he was choosing to let go of the bitterness and hatred and forgive his sister, who was also the mother of his niece. Years ago, he’d walked in as she was present, watching her boyfriend sexually molesting her young daughter—his precious niece.
My husband and I cried with the husband who’s wife of over thirty years suddenly left him. Our hearts ached as we saw the depth of his deep pain.
I felt a touch of the anguish of a soft-spoken wife and mother hwo shared how her husband has become abusive to her.
We cried with the dear husband who’s wife is battling an intense physical condition. Although he tenderly cares for her, he is helplessly watching her suffer.
Many emotions and memories were awakened for Duane and I as we visited the hospital to pray with the incredibly strong, young couple as they watched their first born battling for his life.
We’ve seen suffering after suffering, heard story after shattering story of immense pain. What exactly do you say to someone who’s child committed suicide? Or how can you care for the person who’s lonely, and facing the loss of their dreams? What should you do when a parent weeps while telling you that her teenager has walked away from the Lord and is addicted to drugs?
I, like you, have wondered what I could possibly say, and I’ve trembled inwardly as I’ve asked God for His wisdom in knowing how to reach out to grieving individuals.
There are many ways we can show love and support to a grieving person, but simply allowing someone to grieve is very important. Pain is pain and each loss is hard, but each circumstance is also unique and it affects a different person in a different way. The loss of a parent is much different than the loss of a child. And the loss of a spouse is also different than the loss of a child or parent. So be careful when you are tempted to say that you understand what a person is going through–because what you’ve experienced is probably not exactly the same.
Did you know that grief doesn’t stop at a certain time or place in life? With time, more healing will continue to take place. But a hurting person needs to be allowed to talk about their grief without being afraid of being judged. Yes, at times, they may need gentle reminders to focus on their blessings rather than on their losses. But please be careful not to do it too early in the grieving process. Many hurting people have been deeply hurt in this way. Be compassionate even if you can’t relate or truly understand what they’re going through.
It means a lot to a grieving person when you simply remember…some times you may remember their birthdays or anniversaries, but it means the most if you simply acknowledge that you remember the person they’re missing so deeply. Their loved one is still living close within their hearts. You may be hesitant in bringing that person up, but they need to hear words like, “I miss him too!” or “I thought of your wife yesterday…” It’s always better to cry with caring friends than to cry alone.
This past week, it was six years since our dear son and brother unexpectedly went to be with Jesus. Six years. I wonder at times how that can be. I couldn’t imagine making it through one year without Austin. Although I was dreading this anniversary, we were blessed to have dear friends praying for us. The texts and messages encouraged us. After reminiscing and having a good cry early in the day, I felt better. That evening, our family celebrated Austin’s life by engaging in one of his favorite ways to celebrate. Eating at a Mexican restaurant.
So what’s the greatest gift you can give a grieving person? I just have to share the story about what happened to me today. Just as I was writing this blog, God gave me such a beautiful example of this priceless gift.
There’s a young man that I’ve seen in town over the past several years that I’ve observed from a distance. I didn’t know why, but something about him caught my attention. He always seemed so familiar, but I dismissed it, and didn’t think much about it.
Today I went into our local health food store where I could get away from the distractions at home and sit in front of the fireplace to write this article. After awhile, I realized the store would be closing soon, so I decided to pick up a few items before going home to finish.
As I was standing in line to pay, the cashier behind the counter caught my attention as he was interacting with the customers. His friendly and sanguine personality made them smile. When it was almost my turn to pay, I realized he was the same young man I had seen years ago who seemed familiar to me. He was tall and thin and as I watched him again, I realized his gestures were so identical to our son Austin that it nearly took my breath away. As he began to check me out, I mentioned, “You remind me so much of my son. Your mannerisms are just like him!”After he asked me a few more questions, we discovered that he was born exactly two months before Austin.
When he inquired more, I explained that Austin had passed away six years ago, and his eyes widened and, to my surprise, began to glisten with tears. He stopped what he was doing and walked around to the front of the counter and opened his arms to give me a hug and said, “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry.” Needless to say, I broke.
It’s been so long since I’d received a hug from Austin, but this hug truly felt like it was coming straight from him. I literally wept! And he cried with me. As I was wiping my tears, he said, “Thank you for being vulnerable. Whenever you miss your son, stop in here and I’ll give you a hug.”
I cried the whole way home, but they were tears of joy at this divine appointment from my loving Abba Father. Only God could orchestrate something like this! Never in my wildest dreams would I hug someone I don’t know, sobbing, while standing at a checkout counter in a store.
Now, this young man didn’t really know much about me. And I don’t know much about him. I don’t think he has a personal relationship with the Lord. Yet God used him in an incredible way to show me that He knows and cares for this grieving heart of mine. God knew I needed a hug from Austin more than I did.
And this caring young man gave me the greatest gift he could ever give. He gave me himself. His time and his compassion. And he put aside what was comfortable for him to comfort me. He didn’t know the right words to say, but he simply was there.
So what is the greatest thing you can give a grieving person? It is simply…yourself. Your care and presence. Just being there so they don’t feel alone. Aloneness was the first thing that God wanted to change in the garden of Eden. He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” You are Jesus with skin on when you’re there to give a hug, cry with them, or pray with them.
Who in your life is needing the greatest gift you can give them? When you choose to enter into someone’s grief, the curse of aloneness is shattered. And this is where they can begin to heal. Give of yourself to those who are hurting. You will never be sorry you did.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)