Isaiah said, “At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor. I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see.” You can relate, right? If you’ve been through a tragedy, you know how Isaiah felt. You think you must be dreaming and you’ll wake up to breathe a sigh of relief. The truth seems surreal. It leaves you staggered, confused, bewildered. You say to yourself, “This just can’t be true.”
I remember the morning my mother died. It came unexpectedly. I was visiting home for the weekend with my daughter, Jaime. The night before Mom died, we had enjoyed an evening where she had unexplainable energy. So much so ~ that we planned an outing for the next day. The following morning, I was standing at the stove making scrambled eggs. The english muffins were under the broiler, table was set, coffee was made, and Dad remarked how surprised he was that Mom had overslept. He offered to go check on her. I heard his footsteps come down the hall on his way back from her room and will never forget the look on his face as he said, “She’s gone.” Immediately, I felt lightheaded. My ears were ringing. I couldn’t think clearly and his words sounded distant. It took days, even weeks, for me to feel somewhat normal again. Such is the experience of living through a physical reaction to shock. God graciously made us this way because the truth of the moment is too heavy to internalize. He will allow it to come in waves, a little at a time, so that our body, heart, and mind can adjust to a new reality. I’m sure Dad was experiencing a similar fog.
I can forget this when I visit someone in a hospital after an accident or I remember how well I thought someone was doing at a memorial service. “They held up well,” I’ll say as I recount how they stood in a receiving line and greeted everyone without breaking down in tears. The truth was, they were operating beneath a shock system that would wear off long after the event was over. Later on, when they really needed me, I had gone on with my life. I had mistaken their initial composure for lack of need. No one escapes grief. No one is beyond needing others no matter how things may appear.
After a tragedy, be sure to reach out later on, three months later, even a year later. Send another card, bring a meal, pay another visit. Truth be told, the person may not even remember you being there in the first days of the crisis. How can you start your conversation? “I’ve been thinking of you so much. I know the months after an awful event can be harder than the first few weeks. The adjustment must be, at times, overwhelming.” This gives them freedom to agree and talk about it.
Joseph Bayly, an author, lost three of his seven children to leukemia. He wrote in his book, The View From a Hearse, this ~ “We experience the death of loved ones, not at the funeral, but when we come upon a pair of their old shoes.” Will you and I be there when future waves of grief come? God gives them the gift of a shock system initially but then needs to comfort them through the hands of His comforters. That’s us. We have our own personal Comforter inside to guide us.