Good morning, Five Minute Families. Join us for the next five minutes as we explore God’s grace in the midst of our pain and hurts. And, for more information about our grieving family retreats, please click on the “Grieving Families” link under the “retreats” tab at our website: clearviewretreat.org
A week ago many fellow Tennesseans suffered countless hurts and losses when tornados tore through numerous counties. The volunteer response has been astounding. From individuals who donated their time to clean up debris to companies giving their employees paid time off to help in the relief effort to the regional hospital not sending out bills from their ER work, so many folks are lovingly overwhelmed with hope and help in the midst of suffering. In some cases, they have had to turn volunteers away because there were so many who showed up.
As the days, weeks, and months pass, the new reality of those affected will be vastly different than anything they could have planned for. Grief and loss will do that. We think that we prepare well and do all we can to mitigate the damage – both physical and emotional – but we were created to be relational beings, and when those relationships are impacted by death and destruction, we can never fully understand until we are in the midst of the pain.
Here are five suggestions on how you can help others during their grief, which, by the way, may last much longer than you expect:
1. Let them share… even if you have heard their story before. In times of crisis, we often forget who we have talked to, what we have said, or what we have even done. You may even have a friend or family member who wasn’t directly affected, but he or she is responding to this tragedy as if it is their own. Be sure to ask open-ended questions and allow them to work through their fears and concerns.
2. Use their loved one’s name. A common misunderstanding for many folks is that if they use the name, then they will bring up sadness. Your friend or neighbor is already thinking of their loved one. By using his or her name, you open the doors to allow memories, thoughts, and emotions to be expressed in a healthy manner.
3. Offer specific, practical help, not just a blanket statement such as “please let me know if you need anything.” It can be hard in loss to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and anticipate the needs. For the tornado victims, many others thought of practical needs such as basic hygiene products or doing laundry. If you are helping someone deal with the death of a loved one outside of a natural disaster, one idea, if you are willing to do so, is to offer to clean a part of their home such as the bathroom or kitchen. When our son Jedidiah died, one of the men of our small group who had lost a child of his own years earlier, went into the kitchen and cleaned it completely without our knowing. It was the next morning before we realized what he had done. That tangible service was a blessing we will never forget.
4. Please be praying for them. If you don’t know their specific needs, a general prayer is fine, but if you have the chance to ask them specifically what you can be praying for, you may be surprised at what they need most in that moment. The ask will bring the two of you closer while allowing your prayers to be more practical for your friend.
5. Lovingly normalize receiving counseling or therapy. Since some folks are sensitive about the subject and feel like the suggestion of quote “maybe you should get some counseling” unquote means there is something wrong with them, you can start by saying instead, “When I went to counseling…” or if you have never had counseling but had a great pastor, mentor, or confidante, “Talking through our losses is so important…”
Here at Clear View Retreat, we offer families a place of respite and refreshment whether in the norms and storms of life. But, God offers respite and peace anywhere. Be His hands and feet in this season of hurt so that you can hear the words one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
May God bless and keep you. May His light shine upon as you serve those He has placed in your life.