“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15
As a culture we are good at one, but we flounder in the face of the other.
We know how to celebrate new life, a marriage, and milestones in life being accomplished. We throw parties. Bring gifts. We dance. We laugh.
My friend Mary Ellen, in a chat about this on a Facebook thread, pointed out how odd it would be if when someone had a baby or got married all we sent was a note or a text that said, “I’m praying for you.” We wouldn’t do that. We know how to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” so we put on our Sunday best, we show up with a gift and we dance the night away. We stalk Facebook for those first wedding photos. When a friend has a baby, we throw a shower, we show up at the hospital with flowers and treats, we make sure meals come to the house the first few weeks. We know how to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”
We don’t know how to step into grief.
We shrink back because it frightens us terribly.
We stop at the very thought of it happening to us. It’s too horrifying.
As my journey unfolds in an “out loud” kind of way, many of you have reached out to me in your own paralysis and have asked, “How can I help you?”or simply admitted “I don’t know how to do this with you.”
Several of you have done your own research and I love you for caring that deeply.
Many of you have asked me and my heart is so moved by your honesty.
Let’s figure this out together so we can truly learn to embrace the part of God’s heart that cries out for us to Mourn with Those Who Mourn.
And let me tell you a secret.
You’re not alone if you don’t know what to do. I haven’t always supported friends in grief well. I’ve tried and floundered. I’ve frozen too.
Here are some things that I am learning that are really important.
1. I need people to check on me and not just ask “What can I do?” because honestly some days I don’t know what to tell you. But I do need you. Ask me specific questions. Do you have groceries? Can I pick up milk and bread and eggs for you? Have your leaves been raked? Do you know what you’re having for dinner? Can I stop by and take your kids to the playground?
2. Don’t quit checking on me. If I can’t do something when you ask because I’m having a horrible day, ask another day because not every day is horrible. If I don’t answer your text, text me again in a few days, but don’t think that a lack of response is because it wasn’t important to me. Maybe it’s because I’m crying to hard to answer and by the time my emotions clear, I’ve forgotten that you even texted.
3. Please don’t tire of me sharing about my son. Celebrate with me. Talk about him around me. I have to talk about him because all I have left our stories and memories. Hearing you say his name is good for my heart. You won’t make me sad. I’m already sad.
4. If I smile, please don’t think that means “I’m getting better”. I smile because there is still joy in life, but every smile you see is moments away from a meltdown.
5. If you came to the funeral and signed the book or gave me a hug, I might remember that you were there. But now is when I really need to know you care.
6. If you brought me a meal or gave us a gift card the 2 weeks following the funeral, I am so thankful. But at the moment, one of the most difficult tasks for me is cooking. I still need you.
7. If you think about me or pray for me, tell me, but more than that tell me what you are thinking when you think about me and what you are praying when you pray for me. I need to hear your words. They need to be more than thoughts.
8. I’m not the kind of friend I used to be. Please have grace for me. I’m a natural caretaker and giver, but the last 4 years my life has been completely consumed by loving and caring for one little boy who needed most of me. I haven’t had time to reach outside of that space, and now with his death, I am trapped in grief. I need your love without strings attached. I need to know that it’s ok that I’m not ok.
9. Be careful. Be very careful that your words aren’t casual thrown out like a bandaid. You can’t fix this with a few verses or cliches.
10. When facing the loss of a child, grief is considered “fresh” for 5 years. Please understand, this isn’t getting better yet. Not even close. The first few months we were kind of in shock and numb. Everything is real now, very very real.
Thank you for coming along this journey and learning with me.
PS. If you have had a dream about Mattie that you would like to share, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also If you have already shared a dream with me, like many of you have, please resend it to email. My facebook inbox is a pool of drowning messages!