Monday, July 28, 2014

Reaching out to the Grieving

Over the past few months, I have been contacted by several people (more like 6 or 7) telling me of another tragic story of a family who suddenly had a child pass away.  My heart breaks every time.

They're always tragic.  Always senseless.  Always wrong.  Always sad.

I am thankful to be a point of contact for these types of losses.  Never would I have imagined that it would be so, but I am grateful of these folks' compassion for their friends and their desire to minister to them during this incredibly sad time.

You have heard me mention Nancy Guthrie before, I'm sure.  Bob and I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy and her husband at a Respite Retreat several years ago.  Her ministry to grieving parents dramatically impacted our journey and continues to inspire us to find proper perspective and seek God's purpose in the sadness.

She recently polled some of the retreat attendees as she was preparing this article, and it was just released.  I hope you find it helpful should you ever need to reach out to a grieving family.

Ministry to Grieving Parents

When we witness the anguish, the anger, the questions, the devastation that comes to families that experience the death of a child, we find ourselves desperate to figure out what we can do, what we can say, that will truly help. In the retreats my husband and I host for couples who have faced the death of a child, participants often talk about the ways people have “been there” for them in the midst of the worst pain they can imagine, as well as the ways people have added to their pain. If you could be a fly on the wall at one of our retreats, here is some of what you would hear them say about how best to minister to them.
Say something to us, even if it is “I don’t really know what to say.” We’re not looking for any great wisdom or insight. We just want to know that you care and are willing to come alongside us in our sorrow. In fact, to say, “I don’t know what to say” shows a lack of presumption that anything you could say would make this OK. A simple “I’m so sad with you” is enough. It is your saying nothing that really hurts.
Don’t be afraid to make us cry or to cry with us. We are desperate to know that our child is not forgotten, that we are not the only people who miss him or her. We long to hear the name of our child. But we know you are sometimes afraid to “bring it up,” afraid that you will make us sad. What you must know is that we are already sad, and when you speak to us about our child, you give us a chance to release some of that sadness, and we are assured that we’re not alone.
Don’t tell us to call you if we need anything. We can hardly think straight enough to know what we need. What we need is for people to figure out how they can help and just do it. Tell me that you’re coming over to do the laundry, pick up a grocery list, or mow the lawn—things we would never pick up the phone and ask you to do.
Don’t compare our pain to someone else’s or say anything that begins with the phrase, “Well, at least …” You see that we are miserable and want to help us to look at the bright side. But all of your efforts to do so simply serve to diminish our loss.
Don’t assume our sadness is a problem. We know our sadness makes things awkward. But doesn’t it make sense that we would be sad? It’s a reflection of our child’s worth. We have a lot of tears that need to come out, a lot of firsts to experience without our child that each bring a fresh wave of pain. Sometimes we feel like people want to fix us so we won’t be sad, or want us to “get back to normal” when we will never be the same. Instead of asking, “How are you?” giving us the impression that the desired response is that we are “good” or “better,” why not ask, “What is your grief like these days?” This shows us that you recognize it is normal and expected that we would be sad for a while.
Don’t tell us that we need to move on, but keep encouraging us to move forward. It is our grief that keeps us feeling close to our child who died, and we are so desperate for that. We need you to understand that leaving our grief behind feels like leaving our child behind. But we also need gentle encouragement to begin to invest ourselves in the living, to embrace the future, and to expect and welcome the healing work of the Holy Spirit in our emotions and relationships.
Understand and share our desire to see God use our loss for good, but help us to accept that we might never know exactly what that good is. Even though we don’t especially like to have Romans 8:28 quoted at us, our greatest comfort is found in its truth: that God can and will use the worst thing we can imagine—including our child’s death—to accomplish something good. But many of us assume it is up to us to discover what that “good thing” is. We have a hard time believing it is true until we find what that is. We’re looking for a purpose that is identifiable, justifiable, singular, and individualistic. Remind us that though we might never see in this lifetime how God is using our loss for good, we can be sure He is using it.
Finally, don’t expect that if you only knew the right thing to say or do, the right book or counselor to recommend, that everything would be OK. This kind of loss will hurt a while. Your persistent presence with us, refusing to give up on us, your choosing to be at ease with our sadness and struggle, finding no fixes and few answers, is a great gift to us.

View the article here


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation Bliss

We have returned from Heaven.  I mean vacation.  It was a wonderful trip that exceeded our expectations on so many levels.

This was our first time to Kiawah Island in South Carolina.  The beach was beautiful and the atmosphere was so very relaxing.

We arrived Saturday evening and, as we had promised, took the kids straight to the beach.  This little beauty was waiting for us.  It was a full double rainbow in all it's splendor.  And, if you've been following our story for a while, you know that double rainbows have a bit of significance for our family.

I almost decided against posting any pictures of our vacation because they truly do not do it justice.  It was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to but it's impossible to capture that on camera.  (at least it's impossible for me to capture it).  So I am interspersing some stock photos!

The beautiful Sanctuary resort.

Kiawah is a wonderful family-friendly location and is almost entirely accessible by bicycle.  We rented bikes for the week and, barring the high stress episodes with the stubborn 5-year-old, it was a super fun family activity.  We could load up and ride to the pool, beach, or playground.  Eveley and the twins would have ridden all day.  The five-year-old, however, had other ideas.

It was super action-packed week.

My sweet Ryan is a little bit of a girly girl. She does not like to be dirty or sandy.  So the beach wasn't really her deal.  But she was content to relax in the chair and, by the last day, had actually warmed up to the whole sand building thing.

One of the local sea creatures.

Bob and I were able to find a babysitter for one evening and headed to the Oceans Course for an evening out.  This, again, is an absolutely breathtaking spot.

Kiawah has a great nature center that features some of the local animals and lets the kids have a "hands on" learning experience.  This is definitely not my daughter but she loved the corn snake.

Mr. Caleb was one happy dude when he got to help hold the alligator.  We saw quite a few alligators around which made mama nervous and the kids excited.

Sweet Eveley is a competitive soul who loves to try anything.  She did an awesome job scaling this rock wall.

I'm not sure when I will be able to take a family photo where everyone participates.  But, for now, I will take what I can get.

This vacation, our first alone as a family, was a success.  We all enjoyed our stay and made many memories together.  The kids were very sad to leave but we vowed to return soon.

When I went to check on the kids before heading to bed, I found Mr. Jack who must have missed his sisters.