Monday, April 4, 2011

The Nitty Gritty of Showing Grace to a Grieving Heart

Entering into the sufferings of others is not what most of us care to do. Some seem to be more comfortable in the midst of suffering than others. Most likely it is because that person has personally suffered in some way and has experienced firsthand what worked and what did not work when someone came to visit.

My brother, who has been with the Lord for almost ten years, had a terminal kidney disease since the age of 13. He had dozens of surgeries and was hospitalized more times that I can remember! My family has been the recipient of many graceful, loving people who walked the uncertain and exhausting road with us.

Funny, I do not remember any of the words spoken (except the ones that should NOT have been spoken), but I do remember the "presence" of those that sat with us or the unassuming ways that some provided for our needs (since we did not know what we needed ourselves).

In 1976, my mother gave my brother one of her kidneys in a six-hour long surgery. Having no other siblings, my father and I sat in the waiting room with about a dozen people who came to be with us. I was terrified by the reality that half my family was in a tedious surgical procedure and there was nothing I could do about it. I sat by myself and in an unlikely fashion, said very little during the entire 6 hour process. The only thing I remember (besides my own morbid, fearful thoughts) is that one of our good family friends put a Pepsi and a pack of nabs in my hands and simply said, "Keep your strength up. Your mama is gonna need you later." I drank the Pepsi and ate the nabs because of his simple act of kindness.

Simple caring for the physical. Sometimes that is all that is required, not an exegesis on why our loved one is suffering. Who has those answers anyway?

So often I hear people say or see people write, "If you need anything, please let me know." Perhaps it is our best shot to feel like we are connecting to the hurting person. But how many of us really believe that the grieving person will tell us what they need? They do not even know what they need - most of the times.

Tomorrow: a little list of some practical things we can do for people who are grieving. Would love for you to help me add to that list if possible.