Since it’s only been six months since my husband died, you all are going to have to bear with me as I reflect on grieving and his death a little bit. I’ve learned so much going through this process and I have to take the time to reflect and record what I am learning.
The first thing I want to talk about is how you can help someone who is grieving. Before I lost my husband, I avoided issues surrounding death and the dying, even in ministry. I have never performed a funeral. I do not even attend funerals at my church. For me it is an out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing. I don’t like to think about death. It’s inevitable, but for me, I’d rather not think about it. That’s not a very good practice for an aspiring pastor I admit. Death makes people uncomfortable, even Christians. However, in this process I’ve learned some things that help during the grieving process. I hope it helps you too when you’re debating on reaching out to a loved one, co-worker or friend who is going through the valley of the shadow of death.
“I just called to say I love you”
Call them. You show someone you care about them through your actions. It helped me tremendously in the days after my husband died to hear from so many people who cared about me and my husband. I felt loved and supported during a time when I felt so distraught, confused, and alone. Normally, I don’t even talk on the telephone, but I needed to express my feelings of grief to anyone and the phone calls served as a great outlet. You don’t need to say anything deep. Just be a listening ear. It helps.
Guess who’s coming to dinner?
Stop by and visit the person. Some of the most heartwarming expressions of love I received after my husband died were the visits from my friends, family, church members, coworkers, and ministerial colleagues. The visits helped me get through the first weeks of shock and it gave me something else to focus on other than funeral arrangements and my next steps. Again, you don’t even need to say anything. Just be there! It helps! Presence is a ministry.
Cook a meal
The last thing on my mind when my husband died was grocery shopping and cooking and I had a two year old at the time who needed to eat. When people first learned of Gabe’s death, my neighbors and ministerial colleagues showed up at my door and dropped meals off. My friends even shopped for me and cooked. That was a huge blessing because I was emotionally and physically drained. I didn’t want to shop or cook. If you’re very close with the bereaved, offer to clean up their house. This helps too, but only do it with their permission. My sister and mother helped me clean up my house, but I didn’t want just anyone going through my personal things.
Let them talk about their deceased loved one
Some people don’t know how to react when someone dies or if it’s OK to bring up the deceased person. It’s OK. I want to talk about my husband. I want to think back and talk about the good times. Also, let the bereaved talk about their loved one for months or even years after the death. Be a listening ear. Be patient with them. Do not tell them or expect them to “get over it.” You never get over the death of a loved one. You learn how to live with the loss. So be patient with them. Allow them to stroll down memory lane. Remove all of your preconceived expectations of how they should heal and go with the flow.
Pray with them
This is self-explanatory for a Christian. When I lost my husband, my prayers consisted of sobbing, groans, and moans. I didn’t know what to say to the Lord. I also didn’t feel like I had the strength to pray. I was emotionally and spiritually drained. I felt the prayers of the righteous in the following days and it helped me to have others pray for me. Their prophetic prayers let me know that I would make it through.
When someone first dies, the house is always filled with people and the phones consistently ring. However, when the weeks turn into months, people disappear. Everyone goes back to their life. Sometimes that is when the bereaved need people the most, not that they’re extra needy, but after they settle into their new existence, it can be very lonely, especially if that person lost a spouse. Give the person a call to see how they’re doing six months after their loved one dies or even a year. Let them know you’re thinking about them.
Now, some of you super spiritual people will think that if you have Jesus, you shouldn’t need “all of that.” You have Jesus after all. Well, even though we do not grieve as those without hope, we still grieve. Remember the story of Lazarus (John 11). Jesus saw the distraught state of Mary and the Jews around her as she led him to her brother’s tomb, and he was moved to tears. Now, if Jesus wept knowing he was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead, it should let us know that it’s OK for us to grieve our loved ones.