The Season Of Joy- And Hurt

I rarely have the right words to say.  So I make jokes, or say inappropriate things, or say nothing.  I can come across as crass or unfeeling quite often.  Not proud of that, just fact.

But it also makes me pretty forgiving of others who don’t get the right words out.  I care way more about intent and heart than about the right words, and there are so many times that words are inadequate anyway.

So for those who are sometimes at a loss in the most difficult of times, I thought I’d give some tips.  Why now?

Because it’s the start of the season of Joy.  But also the season of great loss and sorrow.

Even those celebrating with family and finding joy throughout this season may be missing someone.  Or may be facing financial troubles that overshadow all else.  Or may be healing from heartbreak.  There’s a lot of darkness in homes this time of year.

My 10 tips for helping a hurting friend :

1.  Assume everyone is facing something and give them the benefit of the doubt when their words aren’t quite right.

2.  When you know they’re missing someone who has passed away or missing, let them talk about their loved one.  You don’t have to have the right words, you just have to ask about their traditions or past holidays and listen.  Pretending they aren’t gone won’t make it easier for them.

3.  Don’t ask if someone needs help.  If there’s a reason for you to ask, you probably already know there is a need.  They’re probably not going to tell you specifically or even say so.  Look around- maybe they need a meal, their yard taken care of, or just a coffee brought to them.  Don’t ask, just do.

4.  Give something personal and meaningful.  Small meaningful gifts that remind them they’re loved mean the most.

5.  Don’t offer religious catch phrases.  Did you know that it is not biblical that God won’t give you more than you can handle?  (Great article about that here).

6.  Invite them but don’t push them.  Depending on the situation or their place in the cycle of grief, they may not be ready.  But they also may just need to be asked and loved.

7.  Enjoy your family.  No one hurting truly wants those around them to feel the way the do.

8.  Don’t remind them that it will get better.  It doesn’t help and they probably already know that.  But imagining the time when they’ll miss their loved one less only means imagining even more time passing.

9.  Encourage.  Cards, text, voice mails, all to let them know they’re on your mind.

10.  Pray.  It works.

With two young kids and the most amazing friends, the holidays are full of joy.  But even then there are moments of sadness missing Austin and others.  And I know many for whom the grief overshadows the joy.

I hope this starts you thinking about how you can help a friend experiencing that this season.

 

hurting_friend

 

 

Missing his Uncle

Drew was just two days past his fourth birthday when we lost Austin. I didn’t know what to say to him, didn’t even know what to say to myself at that point. Drew loved his uncle, and with Austin living with us, he was used to seeing him daily. He was expecting a fishing trip soon and wondered when they could go.

Early on we decided to be honest with him but on a level he could hopefully understand. It all seemed fun to him in some ways, as family was in town much more than normal and we started spending time in new towns looking. But he knew we were looking for Austin, that he was lost and needed to be found. He would ask people he didn’t know to look for “Uncle Austin” and they gladly told him they would.

We tried to keep things somewhat normal. I have a happy memory of the morning we signed Drew up for tball, so looking forward to what was ahead. Drew was so little and so cute and was ready to play. But that same morning we were having a prayer rally across the street from the field at our church for Austin.
So like many days of this journey, we left a sad event for something joyous and back again.

I think through it all, that’s how we’ve helped Drew. We’ve let him know that we’re sad and miss Austin, but also let him know he was safe and loved and had good things ahead. He has asked many times about him, and always said he misses him.

It’s now been four years, and our explanations have changes yet remained truthful. Drew now knows that we truly don’t know where he is and truly don’t know if we’ll ever find him. At 8, Drew has now lived longer without Austin than with him. But he remembers him, even tonight saw something that reminded him of Austin and he said he missed him. What sweet joy to be reminded that Austin was loved and is missed, even by someone that I’m not sure truly remembers him.

I don’t yet know exactly what we’ll tell Ben about the uncle he never knew. But I know we’ll make sure he knows the level of truth he can understand, and that he’s loved and safe too. And we won’t pretend we’re not missing part of our family, won’t pretend there isn’t grief.

And I pray that as they grow, they’ll never pretend things are okay when they aren’t, but will be able to also find the joy in the midst of any circumstance they face. And if they remember Austin, that would make me smile too.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saying Goodbye

We aren’t very good at saying goodbye, or even knowing when it’s time to.  Our family is facing that right now with my Grandmother, and at this very moment critical decisions are being made.  Just a few nights ago she had two strokes, and the night after a seizure.  She is responsive and has made it very clear, both through a living will years ago, and comments in the past few days, that she wants to be allowed to die naturally.

But right now she can breathe on her own, pump blood on her own, but is having difficulty swallowing.  Due to that, the doctors wanted to place a feeding tube to give nutrition and medication, and though she didn’t want to, agreed to it with the promise that it wouldn’t stay long.  After just a few hours, she pulled it out on her own and doesn’t want it back in.  But her children, my mom and her siblings, are having a hard time agreeing to that.  After all, she could regain all needed functions with therapy, or at least have a good shot at it.

But she is exhausted and ready.  Her wishes must be honored.  I can’t help but think that if she could see past the exhaustion and depression that comes with a seizure, she’d want to live more life.  Austin was exhausted, but we didn’t get to take part in the decision for him.  We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.  We wouldn’t have said goodbye though, we would have stopped him.  I hope my mom and my aunts and uncles and other family gathered around her can find a way to say goodbye when the choice has been made.

Goodbye’s are awful, but I’ve learned that they’re better than never getting a goodbye.