Grief. We don’t choose it, but we will all have to face it. Two precious PWs have recently shared their experiences of grief with me. I want to pass on some of what they wrote and lessons we can all learn from them.
Louise lost her son, Jedediah, on Christmas Eve just 52 days after his birth. She said,” When I had slept through the night and I woke at the first light, I knew. I knew that something was horribly wrong. I went to his bed and he was not there; only his shell remained. My son had gone on before me. I felt that I had abandoned my baby. My intellect would tell my heart that this was not true. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) deaths happen all over the world, living in Mongolia had nothing to do with it. Jed was healthy. He had a full checkup by an American doctor just a week before he died. Still, my heart was not listening. When a blow this devastating comes to a heart, it shuts down
“We buried Jedidiah three days after Christmas on the windswept, frozen Mongolian steppe, overlooking our small city. We had to hack away at the frozen earth for an hour, to make a small hole for his body. The ice-cold wind blew and, when we cried, our tears froze before they hit the ground. Our son was the first American to be born in Erdenet, Mongolia, the first American to die in Mongolia, and perhaps the first Christian to be buried.”
Almost a year later she said, “In some ways the pain of my loss is more real now, than it was, on that cold December morning. God provides a protecting anesthesia that cushions the blows and jolts of the first months after a shock like this. The Novocain has worn off now and the reality of my loss is settling in. The sense of loneliness has taken me by surprise and left me stumbling to get my balance. It camps out at my door and dogs my footsteps at every turn, like a hungry street urchin begging for money with outstretched, grimy hands and imploring eyes. If I give in and acknowledge this pest, will he go away and leave me alone or will he dog me to my grave? Some days the loneliness is overwhelming, it feels that the whole world has gone off and left me with my guts hanging out, the raw Siberian wind whistling through the vacuum left behind by my son’s premature departure. Other days I feel abandoned by Jedidiah, how could he do this to me, doesn’t he know that he was supposed to bury me? That’s the way it’s done. Children bury their parents not the other way around. How unfair of him not to play by the rules!”
From the vantage point of six years, Louise wrote, “Dealing with the grief was very difficult. We were so isolated and it was back in the “olden” days before email and we had no phone. Communication from home was very limited. The local believers were so petrified of death that the mere mention of my son’s name would send them running. I can look back on it now and see how they needed to see someone grieve with hope but at the time it was very hard. My biggest earthly help was the 23 year old, peace corps worker who was in our town. She would come around and take me on walks and just talk. You never know what God will use.”
Diane lost her son, Andrew, a little over a year and a half ago. Diane wrote, “Despite the medical diagnosis in which he was expected to live only a few weeks, he made it to 3 ½ and turned our world upside down in the process. The Lord definitely used this time in our lives where we had to lay down all our plans at His feet and to His control for our good. We’re so much richer for having had him a part of our lives as long as we did.
“Andrew received a measure of healing in his face(cleft lip), heart and eyes(cataracts) through the skilled hand of medical professionals. Each time we fully knew that we must hold his little life loosely for the inevitable time that the Lord would take him back into His arms.”
I asked Diane some questions about how they coped with Andrew’s life and death. They were in England at the time of his birth and lived there, except for a few trips until about a year and a half after his death. The medical care was excellent for Andrew and they were able to find work in England until another position came open overseas.
At one point Andrew’s older brother said, “So, I guess this means I’ll be your only son.” “No,” Diane replied, “you will always have had a brother and our family will always have had two boys…but Drew’s body doesn’t work and Jesus may take him to live in heaven sooner than us.”
She said, “Thankfully, Aaron could verbalise the times that it all got to be TOO much and we’d try to balance out our time with him. We’d work out some things to do that were special for Aaron alone.”
I asked if there was anything special people did that helped them cope or made life harder for them. Diane said, “The hardest thing to handle was well-meaning Christians stating the obvious that Andrew had gone to a better place… of course we knew that, but it seemed to equate his disabilities with a lack of quality of life.
“Those who just came to help clean, cook, iron, hug and cry with us and didn’t feel compelled to have to ‘explain’ life to us were the greatest balm and comfort in the days that followed.”
Here are some ways we can comfort those around us who grieve:
- Reach out to the grieving person: show your interest and share your caring feelings.
- Listen: Your greatest gift to a grieving person can be your willingness to listen.
- Ask how you can help: Be specific in your offer to do something and then follow up with action.
- Remember holidays and anniversaries: Do not allow the person to be isolated.
- Suggest activities that you can do together: walking, biking, or other exercises can be an opportunity to talk, and a good source of energy for a tired body and mind.
- Help the grieving person find new activities and friends: include grieving persons in your life.
- Pay attention to danger signs such as: weight loss, substance abuse, depression, prolonged sleep disorders, physical problems, talk about suicide, and lack of personal hygiene. (Excerpt from Hospice Net: A Guide to Grief. To see the entire article and many other good resources go to:Hospice )
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, reach out today. Do not try to “tough it out” alone. If you need to “talk” and you don’t have anyone near by, write to us and we will pair you up by email with someone who is further along the road to healing.