Friday, January 7, 2011

What to do?

Ever since I joined the hated "club" -- a mom who has actually had to bury her child -- I am often asked for advice or suggestions for dealing with another who is just beginning this difficult journey.

These requests for help often get me thinking back to those early days. What was helpful? What was not helpful? What was comforting? What was depressing?

Over the past several months, I have been posed this question too many times: What should we do? How do we reach out to this family?

Let me begin by acknowledging that all stories are different. And I do not dare presume I know what is best for another mom. But I can share my experience and offer a few bits of advice.

Without a doubt, the thing that brought the most comfort was Scripture. Reading God's promises and focusing on the Truth literally removed the phyical pressure we were feeling on our chests. I had several friends who sent over 3x5 cards with different verses written on them. These were very helpful as it was critical to keep God's Word on the forefront of our minds. A few of them still remain stuck to my dresser and bathroom mirrors.

But I do remember one evening in particular. It had only been two weeks since the funeral and Bob and I had gone out to dinner alone. It was terrible. We barely knew what to say to eachother and encountering the public was painful. On our way home I remember wishing I could read a book about someone else who had experienced something similar ... and survived. But it couldn't be a story about butterflies and rainbows. It had be the story of Hope because of Christ. When I got home, there was a UPS package on our front porch with a book sent from a friend. Reading about someone else's journey -- someone who is surviving this journey because of Christ and their recognition of the HOPE He offers -- really helped encourage and inspire me to lean on Jesus and keep on taking the difficult steps.

Here are some of my recommendations:

This was the book I found on my front porch that evening. In one car accident, the author lost his wife, his mother, and his young daughter. It is deep but so full of great insight and thought-provoking perspectives. The author presented his sincere questions on faith and God that arose after the accident, and then explained his journey to the hope-filled answers he found. Both Bob and I were really helped by this book.

I would recommend anything written by Nancy Guthrie. She has such a gentle way of encouraging others through their devastation by pointing out the grand promises God has given us in His Word. As I have written about earlier, her books (and later herself personally) played a big role in my initial response to our tragic loss of Robbie.

Holding on to Hope, her first book, helps give you a look into her family's tragedy and their journey through it. A friend sent me this one just a few weeks after Robbie went to heaven.

Then I ordered the One Year Book of Hope, a devotional based on her story. It was a lifesaver! The book guided me through a dark and difficult year, focused on topics that were at the forefront of my mind each day that year, and gave me wonderful perspective on the Hope and Joy we have in Christ. I told Nancy that when I was finished with the book, I could barely believe we had survived an entire year. This is definitely one that I would send someone going through a similar loss.

And this other book by Guthrie is a great resource as well and is full of Scripture!

I just read Mary Beth Chapman's new book a few months ago. Mary Beth wrote so honestly about going through the tragedy of losing their daughter all in the public eye. And since I was a MAJOR follower of Steven Curtis Chapman and his music throughout high school and college, it was very cool to learn the stories behind some of his great songs.

One last bit of advice. Even if you have no idea what to do, just do something. Don't fear saying or doing the wrong thing. If you express your sincere sadness and make an effort to reach out, it will be a blessing. This could be in the form of cards, phone calls, or meals.

And don't forget the ministry of presence! Sometimes you don't need to say anything. Just stopping by to offer a hug, or hanging out during the day, can really be invaluable. I remember several girlfriends inviting me over or stopping over in the morning, bringing coffee and bagels, and just sitting. We didn't have to speak deeply about the pain, but having their presence was so meaningful.

You could offer to help with some needs - caring for other children, grocery shopping, cleaning, addressing thank you notes. Any bit of sincere effort will surely be appreciated. And I will say that there is a lot of financial burdens that come with death -- unexpected, unplanned-for, and difficult-to-face bills are hard reminders of the loss. Helping financially can be a great blessing as well.

Hopefully this will give you a little bit of guidance if you are ever asking this question of what to do to encourage a family going through such a deep loss. There are so many ways in which people showed their love and concern for us. Family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers continued (and continue) to encourage us in a variety of ways. We are so thankful.



Christine said...

This post is so helpful. I'm thankful for your willingness to live out 2 Cor 1 and let how God has comforted you be a comfort to others.
Thanks for your willingness to talk about it!

aprildtaylor said...

I have been thinking of you alot lately and esp since I've heard the song "Always" by Building 429 it has played on the radio several times over the last few wks and you come to mind every time and it gives me chills. When I have thought to write and tell you this I think "i cant image how losing Robbie must feel" but I have thought of how it would feel w/ Jayci and her heart but if there is a way to be prepared for this to happen and I dont think there is but I would expect it w/ her and w/ you guys just being an "accident" (earthly that is) My heart breaks for you guys and I just wanted you to know, that I think of and pray for you often! Your babies are beautiful and I know you cherish EVERY moment w/ them! Thanks for sharing!