Summary: Practical suggestions for helping people in grief
I’m a liar. A big fat liar. Well, maybe not big fat lies, but at least little deceiving lies. The big fat part is that I keep telling the lie.
So many people have been so kind since my mom died on April 19, the day before Easter. With genuine concern and a desire to help, you have asked how I am doing. And, for the most part, I have responded to your generosity with a boldfaced lie. I have said, “I’m OK, I’m fine.”
The truth is, I am not doing so well. I have not slept well for the past two weeks. I eat too much and I have trouble concentrating. I am perpetually tired, nearly exhausted. I am functional, but at about 70% of my normal level.
My situation is not abnormal for someone in the early stages of grief. Everyone has different symptoms of grief. Some don’t eat at all, some over eat. Some can’t sleep and others sleep too much. Some withdraw from all outside contact. We get confused, forgetful, irritable, irrational, angry and very sad.
And many of us try to cover all that up. We fear that if we honestly answered the question, “How are you doing?” you might turn and run away in self defense if we began to spew emotionally like a volcano.
So, what do you do with us? How do you help someone who is going through a difficult time?
Let’s go to God’s Word for some answers.
Please turn to 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
I began planning this sermon two days after my mom died. Most of it is material that I wanted to share with you at some point. Now seemed a good time. Partly because it seems relevant, but mostly because is has been therapeutic for me to prepare and deliver this message.
Usually, people assume there are eloquent words that bring instant relief from suffering. There is a belief that there are professionals – poets, preachers, authors – who have been gifted with the ability to say just the right thing at just the right time.
Skills and know-how are not nearly as important as a genuine concern. The right words are really very simple and ordinary ones. Words like “I’m sorry,” and “I am praying for you.”
Let’s learn together from God’s Word What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say.
READ 1 Corinthians 1:1-11
One Sunday morning a preacher was making the point that death is a natural part of the life cycle. He quoted Genesis 3:19 saying that we came from dust and to dust we will return.
After the service, a five year old boy came running up to the preacher. All out of breath with excitement he asked, “Is it really true that we came from dust and return to dust.”
The preacher said, “That’s right, my boy. That’s what the Bible says.”
The boy replied, “Then you’d better get over to my house right quick and look under my bed because somebody’s either comin’ or goin’!”
Death is part of the cycle of life. Bad times come into the life of everyone. They certainly invaded the life of Paul. Take a look at verses 8-9 again. He uses words like hardships, suffered, great pressure, despair and more. He felt it was all beyond his ability to endure. In fact, he thought he was going to die.
You have probably been through some hard times yourself. You may have lost a job or been fired. You might be deep in debt or facing a financial crisis. Your crisis may be health related or dealing with a troubled child. Or you may be coping with the death of someone you love dearly.
No matter what kind of suffering you are enduring, no matter what the source, be assured you are in good company. Paul suffered. Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and people sitting all around you in this auditorium this morning are suffering.
Just as sorrow and pain take many forms, they come from many sources. You may be suffering for something you have done. You might be suffering from the actions of someone else. Paul, and countless other Christians, have suffered because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we suffer simply because we are human. Visiting China is not a particularly evil thing to do. However, so far, at least 20 deaths in Canada have been reported due to severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS.
Accidents happen, diseases are contracted, cancer appears, tornadoes strike, floods ravage and death stalks us. Simply because we are human. We live in a world cursed by sin.
So often, we do not choose the suffering. However, we can choose our response to the distress we bear. We can be bitter and angry. We can complain that God is not fair. We can quit, give up, throw in the towel.