Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Sudden bereavement, grinding grief
9:33 p.m. Today's project was to visit a woman from church who has lost her mother and father-in-law within the last week. Additionally, their beloved doggie was euthanized. That is a lot for a family to bear all at once.
A friend, Deborah, had brought up the family's plight during the prayer request time at Thursday morning Bible study, and I followed up with her as to exactly what the needs were: meals, or a visit and prayer? A visit would be appreciated, so I got Lynn's number, and we made a connection, scheduling for this evening.
Because Steve and I were going to midweek service, we planned a 6:30 visit. The enemy was getting us both riled up, as I went to one mistaken address on the street after another. I find myself more distracted by Steve lately when driving to appointments, instead of focusing on my destination and what God has called me to do once I get there. As I spoke to him in an irritated tone when he walked out into the street instead of getting back into the car for me to back out, I said to myself, "God can't use you when you're acting like this!" So I apologized as we finally found the house (a case of my transposing numbers) and walked to the door, as did he. We briefly prayed also while waiting for the door to be answered. God is so faithful to use us when we fell utterly useless!
Lynn's husband Dave answered the door, greeted us both, and then went to another part of the house. Lynn gave me a huge hug, so sweet and welcoming despite her grief. And to my delight, there was Deborah, which made for a smoother start to the conversation. I introduced Steve and explained why he had to be with me, and I led the conversation to talk about how her mom died, the memorial, the fiscal and legal details were mentioned, and then I shared some commonalities with losing Steve's and my mom. I told Lyn that I miss my mother 6 years later, but now I think of her funny sayings and habits, her good advice throughout my life, my upbringing, and good memories. Lyn's pain is so raw right now that she can't envision coming to a place of peace--but it will come. We discussed her immediate plans, I shared scripture, and we ended with prayer.
I can't help but contrast the emotional effect of a sudden bereavement and the slow, grinding pre-bereavement that I am going through with Steve. A sudden loss causes utter shock, disorientation, and devastation, but you are very aware of what you are feeling and experiencing, the violent pain inside, the emptiness. And it is the calling of the church to come alongside the family with whatever needs they may have when a loved one dies.
But the grinding grief that is affecting me with Steve is probably like Pastor John's story this evening about the man who was balding, but didn't know it as long as a he had a hair to comb over. When he finally announced he was bald to his wife, she informed him that he'd been bald for a long time! The point is that everyone but me can see my grief, although it became apparent to me when our caregiver class discussed it, and I accept it as happening.
What have I been doing to maintain my joy? Staying in the Word, praying, journalling my prayers, keeping active with Steve, my business and ministry, helping and encouraging others and staying in fellowship in every way possible. While I prefer to rejoice with those who rejoice, I also weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15). That's the way to be human. It's called empathy.
And I have been the recipient of wonderful empathy from family, friends, acquaintances, customers, church leaders and neighbors. And when empathy comes in the form of practical help, I wouldn't dream of refusing it! Pride has no place, because the people I may have helped in some way in the past are helping me now! Or better yet, they are helping others because they were helped!
At this time, I have not experienced what Lynn is suddenly going through. and she probably can't imagine what my life is like. But we have both made a new friend due to terrible circumstances, as Mordecai put it in Esther 4:14, for such a time as this.