A very special friend of mine, Mrs. Micki Harjo, went home to be with the Lord last Tuesday. I wrote about her HERE. She was a mom of seven, a blogger, an online encourager of women, a ladies Sunday School teacher, a missionary wife to the Navajo Indians, a grandmother, and most of all, she was a blessing to all who knew her. I had the privilege of meeting her last April in person. I’d known her online before that. She started a Christian ladies forum years ago. At some point, she gave it up, but someone else took it over, so it still exists. Ladies who have never physically met fellowship regularly because of something she started.
I’ve noticed the great outpouring of love for the family on Facebook. It’s a blessing to see how many people care for this dear woman’s family. We all know that Micki is doing great – she is in Heaven with her Savior. It’s those still living in this sin cursed world without her smile and laughter that are suffering. So many people wrote things on Facebook like “Take comfort in the Lord” or “You know she’s better off and wouldn’t want to be here!” or “Take joy that you will see her again.”
Really? “Take joy” ?
How much more glib can you get? A husband, seven children – four of whom are still at home – three grandchildren, church ladies, and other relatives lost someone who means the world to them, someone who, in fact, was the world to them, and we should “take joy”.
I know the way the loss of a parent turns your world upside down. I know that the embrace of loved ones at the funeral does, in fact, ease the pain some. I also know that the hardest days, the darkest days, are those that stretch out before you, after everyone has gone back home. They are all going back to their lives, where everything is still the same, while the bereaved have to pick up the pieces of their life and try to keep going. It’s not a few pieces either. It’s like a car showroom window that shattered into millions of pieces and you must pick it all up, one by one. All while you are bleeding from the abdomen. While you are there, stooping on the ground in sweat and tears, holding your stomach, trying to make a dent in the chaos, someone walks by. You hear them crunching on the surrounding glass. You look up to see them smiling sweetly. They say, “Take joy that you will see them again” and then they walk off.
You look up, slightly perturbed and confused by the remark, but you brush it off and keep going. You stop for a break. You check your wound. You keep going. One piece, then another, then another. Finally, by the grace of God, you DO make it. You get your life back. It will never be like it was, but it is a new “normal”. You catch yourself smiling again, and even laughing. Your life picks up a new rhythm. Because of God’s grace, people around you think that it has been easy. But it wasn’t. The Lord working in you and through you just made it look that way. Only the Lord knows about the loneliness. Only He saw you cry until you were dry at the mouth and dehydrated – how you stopped only because you had no more tears left. Only He knows how everywhere you look, you are reminded of your loved one. How you long to hear their voice just one more time. How you would like to be able to hear them laugh! He alone is with you when that sharp cutting pain pierces your soul time and time again. You see photos or videos, and that makes it hurt more, because you face the stark reality that those few photos and videos are the only tangible way you will ever see them again. Yes, you have Heaven to look forward to, but that isn’t tangible…not yet.
If you have walked this road of grief, you know what I’m talking about. People are so kind and loving, they mean well, they really do. But in some cases they are not doing well. In trying to help, some folks actually add to the hurt. I’d like to share, from my own experience, some things that helped me, and a few that hurt me, after I lost my Dad 6.5 years ago.
1. Bringing food, sending flowers, writing a poem, or mailing a note that you are thinking of the bereaved is a blessing. It would also be thoughtful to take food to the grieving after others have left, say a week or two later.
2. Sharing a funny or special memory of the one who has died is a great comfort. Sharing how the deceased helped you is a blessing also.
3. Saying “I’m praying for you.” and then doing it, is a great comfort.
4. A warm embrace says a thousand words, all of them good.
5. Asking “How are you holding up.” is only appropriate if you know the person well enough to actually listen to how they are holding up. If you are not close to the person, expect to hear “Fine.”
6. Remembering the bereaved on the birthday of the deceased, the anniversary of the death, and the holidays is a blessing to the grieving. Those days are very hard.
7. Quoting scripture, such as Romans 8:28, is inappropriate at a funeral.
8. Saying “He/She is in a better place.” or any other such phrase kinda stinks to the bereaved. (Just being honest here.)
9. Telling the bereaved how badly their loved one looked before they died or saying that the body looks bad at the funeral DOES NOT HELP. (Yes, I had both of these happen to me.)
10. Telling a Christian bereaved person that their loved one is “an angel now” is sweet, but inaccurate. A saved person is higher than the angels, they are a child! They have gone home.
I understand that anyone who takes the time to even show up at a visitation or funeral is showing love to the those who are grieving. But, while you’re there, be sure your visit will only leave pleasant memories with the grieving, not pangs of hurt.