Healthy Mourning

candleI’m not sure how to write this post. I’ve attempted it several times and given up. I started with a letter format, and then I thought about creating lists and self-help guidance, and I kept getting it out all wrong.

I’ve been grieving. I’m mourning for a friend who buried a spouse, and it’s affecting me in ways I didn’t anticipate. I mourn for my friend who is now head the household and a single parent to a toddler. I know they are well supported by an amazing community and a small hometown full of family and friends, but my heart aches deeply for these sweet people who deserve the whole world.

I feel the need to protect the goodness from seeping out of my friend. A friend who is the first to volunteer, to give back, to organize – it’s not fair.

And then my thoughts instantly shift into feelings of guilt. I feel guilty for thinking that my friend needs overwhelming support, perhaps making the subconscious assumption that my friend cannot deal with grief – that the strength isn’t there. I mean, I know support is appreciated and likely needed from time to time, but we’re talking about one of the strongest and selfless people I know.

I feel guilty for “stealing the thunder;” like, the grief belongs to my friend and not to me, really. I shouldn’t blunder along and unintentionally make my own sorrow my friend’s problem, too.

Because of these feelings of guilt, I tried to overcome my grief by layering other thoughts on top of it, but it didn’t work so well. I couldn’t concentrate at work and found myself more irritable at Steven and Wes. I knew it was because I wasn’t properly addressing the grief nagging at me.

Everyone says you need to face it head-on, so remember the post about love languages? It came in handy again. I realized that acts of service was not only one of my love languages, but I knew it was also very strong on my friend’s list. Finding tangible ways to move this grief into something productive seemed to work. Wes wanted in on the action, because, well, he’s my little helper, and acts of service is one of HIS love languages, too. We worked together to make small things (like household chores and playing with our friend’s dogs) into big pieces of love.

And to top it off, our church sermon series called, “One Another,” concluded this weekend. Sunday’s scripture in particular moved me. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4:10. Though not a “love language,” I do think I have the gift of empathy. And yes, that’s a way that I love others. I love my friend, and my feelings of grief aren’t bad – they’re real, raw and full of empathy. Of which moves me into acts of service.

What I think many people forget is that, yes, life goes on, but support is still needed. At my office, I found several tips for friends of families living with Alzheimer’s disease surprisingly helpful and applicable. Though meant for a completely different audience, the tips resonated with me as a friend who desperately wants to be supportive. (And you know I have to work a list into a post somehow!)

  • Educate yourself.
    Learn about its effects and how to respond.
  • Stay in touch.
    A card, a call or a visit means a lot and shows you care.
  • Be patient.
    Adjusting is an ongoing process and each person reacts differently.
  • Offer a shoulder to lean on.
    Simply offering your support and friendship is helpful.
  • Offer assistance to help the family tackle its to-do list.
    Prepare a meal, run an errand or provide a ride.
  • Engage family members in activities.
    Invite them to go on a walk or participate in other activities.
  • Offer family members a reprieve.
    Spend time with dependents so family members can go out alone or visit with friends.
  • Be flexible.
    Don’t get frustrated if your offer for support is not accepted immediately. The family may need time to assess its needs.

It’s important for me to mourn in a healthy way – a balance of respect, empathy and encouragement. If you know of a friend or family member who has recently (or not so recently) endured a tragic experience, please reach out to them. He or she may need a reminder that you’re thinking of them, and it may also help you.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

Posted: October 13th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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