Why a glimpse behind the curtain to the deeply personal and hidden grief of a bereaved parent? Not to inspire your pity; of that I can assure you. Instead to inspire others to look beyond the surface of a grieving friend or family member. To consider how families are affected by loss, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, as well as the unique family dynamics that result; which might help you comfort, support and encourage them. The bereaved desperately want to be understood, to have their feelings validated, to break free of the isolation, to mourn unrushed, to have another share their sorrow (not attempt to fix it). This post was written months ago and is not reflective of my current state of mind.
A Frank Conversation with the Father
Here’s the deal Lord, I have no idea how to navigate this existence I’ve been left with. I don’t even want to navigate it — at all. I know You are the answer and yet I’m terrified of You — of Your “good” plans for me (pardon the sarcasm). I’m so broken and I wish more than anything that you had just let all of us die that terrible day. I’m furious that you allowed that accident to happen, that every dream I’ve ever had has been either withheld from me or snatched from my feebly grasping hands.
I have no peace because my fear of You prevents me from drawing close. How can I trust You when You repeatedly allow me to be crushed?, and yet You sustain me. I don’t get it. I don’t know how to move forward, with or without You. I need You but I’m afraid of You – afraid of how much what’s left of this life will hurt – afraid I can’t survive any more. I’m teetering on the brink of insanity. But for Gracen I’d just want to slip over the edge.
I desperately need Your help but am afraid to ask and so resistant to any future because I don’t want new dreams; I want my old dreams back.
I can’t let go of my fear and my resistance in my own power. But I also can’t stomach any more of life as I currently know it. This is the best I can offer in on my own. Please do for me what I can’t do for myself. Do what’s best for me because I’m just hurting myself. Change me because I can’t change myself. Help me to rest, or be still, or trust or whatever it is You want from me to move me past this purgatory in which I’m currently living. I don’t think I can ask twice.
Helping the Bereaved Bear their Burdens
1. Realize it is normal for those who mourn to question and struggle with scripture, long held beliefs, drawing close to, leaning on and trusting God. Don’t get freaked out if you see this happening.
2. Ask probing questions instead of correcting or rebuking especially with scripture. The last thing the grieving need is to feel defensive or to carry the additional weight of fellow believer’s condemnation (which may translate in their minds to God’s condemnation). The believing bereaved need safe people who allow them the freedom to express fears, anger, and disillusionment with God and their faith — people who allow them to question and wrestle with scripture. Failing to provide that will lead them to withdraw or simply suppress their questions and fears. The grief-stricken may completely turn their back on their faith (not lose their salvation, simply quit following Christ) or they might ignore their questions and carry on with their faith. They may grow and mature in other areas but place a large “No Trespassing” sign on that area of the heart refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to heal those deep wounds. Unhealed wounds fester. Allowing a believer to wrestle with their beliefs, to confront scripture, is not something to fear. It’s something to encourage.
3. Ask God for wisdom and discernment for yourself and the bereaved. Be cognizant of whether the grieving believer is asking you to help them understand or simply to hear them out.
4. If the grieving believer is struggling with a specific scripture and is seeking feedback, make sure they are viewing the passage in context. If you are concerned that they might be misinterpreting a scripture ask, “What else does the Bible say?”. Acknowledge when you yourself don’t understand. If you aren’t fast on your feet, ask if you can think it over and get back to them — DO NOT fail to return a response! They need you to keep your word and are often desperate for an explanation. If it’s taking awhile to find an answer, email and let them know you are still mulling it over. Always use the Bible, trusted commentaries, or trusted faith-based resources in a biblical discussion. Don’t add to or take away from scripture. For example, count it all joy doesn’t mean they should be happy their loved one died. Christ wept with the bereaved, he didn’t tell them not to be sad or to find a new perspective, or to buck up and move forward. Follow His example.