ON GRIEF & GIFTS: Tips for Assisting a Grieving Friend
As I walked into my garden the other day, I was pleasantly surprised by the sprouting up of one of my favorite flowers, the forget-me-not. These delicate flowers mark the most sacred time of year for me and bring many treasured memories of my daughter, Karina Jean, to mind. She passed away 12 years ago on April 26th, and this journal entry will be posted the very day she went home to Heaven.
Because of this timing, I feel led to share some of my last memories with Karina that have taken on a greater meaning and some additional thoughts in the hope that they might be of help to others who might be grieving.
Forget-me-nots bring treasured memories of my daughter, Karina Jean
One of my favorite photos of Karina
We spent the last two weeks of Karina’s life in the ICU of the hospital. We prayed and waited for our prayers to be answered for her complete healing here on Earth. I clung SO tightly to the hope that she would live. We were waiting on her blood count to increase, signifying she would make it; it felt like eternity.
One thing I did during those long days was hold her hand tightly and give her my secret squeeze — three short grips to say, “I love you.” Another act of love was rubbing her feet. I spent hours tenderly and lovingly rubbing each foot. As I caressed each one, I persistently prayed that her feet would carry the Good News and peace of Jesus and how real He had been to us. I believed we would have the most amazing testimony to share with the world on how she had been healed and the Lord had answered our prayers! I prayed this Bible verse:
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace and salvation and the news that God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
As the days passed, I reluctantly had to come to grips with the truth and will of God — “not my will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). The Lord has His plan and so often it is not ours. I wrestled with the reality of Karina not being with us and had to trust “Father knows best.” As I ponder the last years, I can’t help but see the evidence of the Lord at work answering my prayers from those last days with Karina. I see her feet on the move through The Anchor. The good news of Jesus and the peace and joy He brings has been shared with so many through Karina’s life, and the launching of The Anchor Gathering is more than I could have ever dreamed or imagined.
Over the past several years, I have confronted grief and was recently interviewed about my experience by Loveology, a new online relationship resource launched by Dr. Les Parrot.
I want to share with you some advice that might help if you or someone you know is grieving. In addition to the tips below, you can find even more advice in my book, Anchored. Being on the outside watching a friend or family member deal with grief can feel like an extremely helpless position. The following are a few simple gifts a person can offer to assist grieving loved ones in their journey through the dark night of loss.
The gift of time. Grieving can be a long process. Allow your friend or family member the freedom to not feel or behave “like themselves” for a long period of time. Most counselors agree grief is most intense in the first five years. Encouraging a person to be still, journal, and talk out their emotions, either with a friend or counselor, can greatly aid in the healing process.
The gift of being comfortable with tears. Even if they come at inconvenient times a person needs to feel embraced and not embarrassed for the spontaneous flow of tears that fall.
The gift of allowing a person the right not to want to be social.
The gift of allowing a person not to be “happy” or smile much for a long time.
The gift of validation of the vast range of feelings (guilt, sadness, anger, relief, etc.) It’s normal for these to arise following the death of someone precious.
The gift of listening. Learn to be comfortable with and accepting of whatever emotions are being expressed or whatever spiritual questions or doubts are being experienced.
The gift of practical service. Step in and help with housekeeping and meals, knowing that takes up a lot of energy and the person may not be able to function well in daily living for a long time.
The gift of remembering holidays, birthdays, and anniversary dates. These days will be difficult for the ones left behind and therefore, especially over the first year or so, can be soothed with recognition by other people. Especially if the loss is a child, the dates will continue to hold meaning for that family.
The gift of inquiring throughout the following months and years as to how that person is doing. Giving the person a chance to express themselves honestly sincethey often feel people are tired of hearing and they should be quiet and stop processing the loss for fear of being a burden to others.
The gift of prayer and encouragement. It is a great comfort to pray both with and for people to bring them strength in their loss. It is also encouraging to send Bible verses or a note or card letting them know you are thinking of them.
The gift of realizing there is no formula for grief. It looks different for everyone. There is no set pattern for how a person navigates their loss.
Grief can be all encompassing, but I can tell you from my personal experience that the night of loss does get lighter. Being anchored in Jesus brings the promise of His peace that surpasses all understanding.
With hope and light,
Join us Thursday, May 12th at 7pm for our first in-person Gathering that will also be live streamed for those hosting Anchor at Home watch parties!