Monday, March 29, 2010

Grief 102

I received several interesting responses to yesterday's post about comforting those who are suffering. Some found the article helpful, some felt concerned that they had been clamorous or oppressive in their comfort to me, some offered a broader perspective on comfort brought to the hurting.

My intent in writing the article was to offer insight to those who don't know what to say. I took a class on grief counseling once, and the consensus across the board was that the greatest comfort came from those who showed up and said nothing at all.

Poorly explained was my focus on my own erroneous motivations when I provide comfort to others who are suffering. In the past, I've been the kind of person who makes ridiculously unhelpful statements. So when I spoke yesterday about checking your heart before you open your mouth, I want to make it clear that I spoke first and foremost to myself. This is what I'm learning about myself through this grief. This is not what I'm learning about you, dear ones.

But rather than continuing this redirect, I'd like to share one of the responses I received to yesterday's post, from a wise woman who lost her father to cancer when she was about my age. Hopefully, this will be another help to those who don't know what to say or do when someone is grieving. Read on:

[It is] good to... recognize our inability to do anything that touches the core of man without the Spirit's enableing. He is the Comforter. I remember sitting by my dad's bed as he was dying with cancer. Many people would come to "comfort". Some truly did and some just wore us all out.

However, as I look back on that time, I realize, they all came. They stepped into a situation that they could not grasp and bravely gave their "offering of comfort". Only God knows what their true motive was.

~Stephanie Brown

Beautiful words. Stephanie points out that those who brought comfort displayed courage and love by showing up. This is the body of Christ in action. I'm so thankful to each one who has shown up to comfort me and my family.

When someone is hurting, absolutely show up. But the point is that when you do show up, please know that it's okay to say nothing at all. Hugs and kisses are not a paltry substitute for words. They are life and breath and hope and comfort and compassion and patience all rolled into one.