Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Helping a Friend to Say Goodbye

One of life's blessings is to support a dear friend in times of grief.

It may seem odd to think of this as a blessing, but consider that the Bible says that serving others is a Gift of the Spirit - and every bit as important as other, perhaps flashier, Gifts... serving a loved one in their dark hours becomes a very rich (if bittersweet) blessing.

Since my family experienced a rather public grief, I have been asked over the years how to help in such time - what is welcome and what is not. Everyone wishes to "do the right thing" - but many times we are unsure what that is.

We don't want to say or do something that might hurt or annoy. We may be afraid of reopening a wound, or more likely we may be afraid of "sitting with sorrow".

There are no real rules... saying or doing just about anything at all is preferable to staying away or not speaking. A thoughtful note filled with memories, an afternoon helping an exhausted mom with laundry or groceries, delivering a casserole for the freezer - with a hug, holding on in a bearhug while your friend cries...all of these will be blessings at different times.

My personal experience has led me to serve in very practical ways: food, laundry, childcare, cleaning, keeping hankies or tissues in supply, lots of prayer, and listening.

A lot of listening. 

A person who has just lost a loved one often needs to talk about their loss, telling funny and sad tales, laughing and crying, sometimes the same tales over and over. There will often be a lot of anger and regret as the loss becomes real. And as the rituals of mourning and funeral can be sustaining and comforting, they can also leave one feeling empty when all one's friends go back to normal life.

Today, my best friend is traveling to a far state to be at her father's side as he passes from this world. We have been praying that he is at peace with the Lord - and with his adult children - before he dies. We have been praying that he passes without undue suffering. And I have been praying for my dear friend to be sustained in her Faith as she faces this most difficult and loving duty.

She has been given the blessing of time to say goodbye. And I am being given the blessing to pray and love and serve. There will be prayer and tears and food.