Encouragement Skill #3


It’s easy to get stuck in grief. It’s inevitable if I’m a loner and never talk about my loss with someone.  It stays an untold story in my head that swims around in a pool of sadness.  Everyone needs to share their losses.  To do that, we need people who love us enough to ask questions, listen well, respect our silence if we need more time, and those who will empathize and not try to shut our grief down with a pep talk.

When we consider the well known phrase, “I’m sorry for your loss,” the context is usually a funeral.  There are so many other kinds of losses to be grieved though.  Loss of a home, loss of a job, loss of good health, loss of a marriage, loss of the ability to bear children, loss of trust, even loss of innocence.  With each kind there is grieving to be done.

To listen to someone who is grieving, two things are necessary.  1.) I must be willing to engage even if I’m unsure how to respond.   2.) I must believe that it’s good for them to speak of these painful things.   While I can agree that it’s important, I still avoid bringing up painful topics at all costs.  Think of what happens when the funeral is over.  It’s six months after, a year after.  How many will tell a grieving widow how much they loved her husband and miss him?  It’s considered a touchy subject, a hot topic, one to avoid, one that will make the widow break down and cry.   We must ask, and that’s a bad thing?  What’s the alternative?  To invite her to some social events to try to cheer her up?

After my mother died (I was 30 years old), I witnessed how few spoke of her even though she was well loved.  One day, I happened to run into one of her friends in the post office.  She saw me and started to cry.  After composing herself, she said ~ “I miss your mother.  It’s August and this is the time of year we’d pick blueberries together.  We knew all the best places for wild berries on these mountains.”  Did her story make me cry?  Yes, I bawled when I got in the car.  But because this woman shared my loss, I was really comforted.  I kept saying to myself, “Oh, thank goodness, someone else misses her too.”  

As long we we are afraid to bring up the topic of someone’s loss, they will grieve alone. They are denied telling the stories that give release to their sadness.  And, they are denied digging deeply to discover the words they might not even know are there. Their feelings stay stuck in a wordless place, never finding a voice.

After Lazarus’ death, Jesus came days later. Though He knew Lazarus would live again, He didn’t reveal that in the midst of the sisters’ grieving.  He could have said, “Don’t cry. I’m going to fix this.”  But He entered into their loss, listened to their complaint, and heard the accusation about the timing of His arrival.  ThenHe was deeply troubled in spirit ~ then He wept ~ and then He performed a resurrection.  Sharing their loss pre-empted the miracle.

Lord, I need not fear other’s tears, nor my own.  I’m willing to face what’s uncomfortable.  Amen

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