I remember every detail of the day my dear friend lost her first baby at 35 weeks pregnant. I was 30 weeks pregnant with my first. I read the text that morning and it didn’t seem real. I was two provinces away and wouldn’t able to see her.
I cried and cried. I tried to get out of bed. I stood in the shower and wept. My heart was so broken for her, and so full of fear for my own baby.
I wanted to support her, but I didn’t know how. I was scared that my own pregnancy would hurt her, and quite frankly, I didn’t know what to say. She didn’t deserve this horrible pain.
I pulled away.
That was my tactic for most situations of loss.
Fast forward a couple of years. Now I’m a pastor and I’m supposed to know how to support people through these situations!
My fear and lack of confidence had not vanished, but I knew I had to push through and be brave.
Like most of you, I am not a grief counsellor, so that means that my role is to support and comfort. Essentially “just be there.”
Here are three things I have learned over the last few years of having to step into situations I’d much rather avoid.
- Stereotypical gifts are comforting. Flowers, food and cards mean a lot. Families still have to eat, words comfort and flowers add beauty to brokeness. One mom dealing with a second trimester pregnancy loss said one of the best gifts that came to them from an out-of-town family member was a meat and cheese tray. As she had to come to terms with what happened, her kids had easy food to snack on.
- When a person wants to isolate the most, is the time when love needs to invade the greatest. There is something about admitting to others that you have lost someone. It makes it real. If you verbalize it, it’s like you are cementing the truth of it. You’re admitting that time can’t be turned back. And of course that’s heartbreaking and unimaginably hard.
At first I gave someone space when they were dealing with loss, thinking I didn’t understand. But the reality was that part of their grieving was needing to speak out that it really happened. Through listening, offering a hug and meal I was able to be a stepping stone to healing.
After a period of time, depending on the extent of the loss, I’ve found that people need help “rentering” the world. It’s a very frightening thing to step out and experience a new normal in grief. Sometimes just offering to go with them for groceries so they aren’t alone, inviting them out for coffee or meeting them at the door of church so they don’t have to walk in alone, makes a big difference.
- It’s ok to cry too. The bible tells us in Romans 12 to “weep with those who weep”. We don’t have to remain strong for someone. In fact, surrendering to our emotion, allows us to experience their heart and live out compassion. Compassion literally means “to suffer together”. This shows the person grieving that you truly care about their pain, and allows your emotion to lead you into action.
This realization was freeing for me. I am naturally a compassionate person and so I can’t hear your pain and not be moved to tears and practical help.
Walking through pain together is an inevitable part of life, and it’s something we can’t afford to avoid.
I’ve walked into many situation scared out of my mind, not sure what to say or how to act, and the Holy Spirit has intervened.
Ephesians 1:8 says
“This superabundant grace is already powerfully working in us and flooding every part of our being, releasing within us all forms of wisdom and practical understanding.”
Remember, loving people is God’s idea! He is close to the brokenhearted and with those who are crushed in spirit! You don’t go on your own.
You CAN “be there” for someone and be a source of healing in a devastating situation!