As we ended the Week of Prayer and meditated on our missions for 2014, I kept trying to come up with a Big Plan or Big Declaration or Big Mission. What I kept getting as I prayed was one word: Simplicity. The most important gifts we can give are often the simplest.
I've been blessed with many kindnesses over the past year as I've experienced the death of a parent. Some of the most heartwarming help has come from things that require neither large amounts of money or time.
Some background: Overall, our American church culture does a terrible job at caring for the grieving. I’ve been researching this topic a lot lately, as it has touched my life in deep ways. What I have found is pretty discouraging. Many people suffering from profound loss often feel isolated and abandoned after the initial surge of sympathy and support. Because American culture centers on the “can do” spirit, the grieving feel they have to pick themselves up and go on as normal even when the world has caved in around them.
Grieving can be from so many things: loss from death, separation and divorce, relationship breakdowns with family and friends. I would like to suggest from firsthand experience some simple ways you can give to grieving people in your life this year:
I challenge you this year to reach out to someone who is grieving. Even the simplest things help heal hearts within the Body of Christ.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk to the grieving. Let them know you're thinking about them. This doesn't have to mean hours of deep conversation and meaningful advice. There's a time and place for that, but a simple text message, quick e-mail, Facebook message, or even "snail mail" note can make someone feel they're not alone in their pain.
Think long term. Don't forget your grieving friends after the initial crisis has passed. Grief is a long process that ebbs and flows. Again, you do not need to do anything "huge." Just being remembered is a gift.
Share your own story of grieving and how you have dealt with it. My research is split on this, since grief is so highly personal that no two experiences are the same, and some don't feel that anyone can understand how they feel. In my personal experience, I have found it very comforting for people to share their stories of loss with me.
Pray for the grieving. There is no more loving thing you can do for someone in pain than to lift them up to our Savior.
Give the gift of Scripture. I love it when people share favorite verses or passages of comfort with me. On rough days, these nuggets of Truth give me something to hold on to in the storm.
This also applies for favorite songs and hymns. Share them with your grieving friends. Music is a great emotional outlet and calming influence.
If you knew the person who has died, share your memories with the grieving friends and family. Many people don't want to cause more pain and hesitate to talk about the person who is gone. Personally, I love for people who knew my mom to share their memories with me. It helps keep her memory alive.