Flowers that Fade or Care that Comforts

Insights for comforting the bereaved

A hug or a shared tear.  A knowing silence or a quiet game of golf.  A touch on the arm or a note in the mail.  What does a mourner need?  How willing are we to break through our comfort zone and deliberately step into the searing pain of someone whose heart is shredded?   What is the proper etiquette?  Silence or words?    Distance or closeness? How do we know what is best, or worse, what will add to their pain, confusion, anger, despair, or disorientation?

Could I offer that becoming an asset to the bereaved is not as challenging as some would like to think.  While it has its tricky moments, those are usually quickly worked out by gentle, honest conversation.  Comforting another might go like this:  Someone you know has received the news that her husband was killed in a freak accident while traveling on business.  Do you call or go in person?  It depends.  If you know no one else will be with them and they are alone,  get there immediately.  If you know they are already surrounded by a supportive, caring network, then call.  You don’t even need to speak to the shocked wife.  Just leave a message that you called and you are supporting her now and will continue to do so.  If you talk with the wife, this might be a possible dialogue.

“Hi, Darlene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI just heard about Jack.  We are so sad.  You are very important to us. I want you to know that we are here for you.  Do you feel like sharing?”

“Oh, Sam, thank you so much for calling.  I don’t know what to say. I am so confused and I can’t believe he’s gone. The other driver was drunk and wasn’t hurt at all.  Jack was left on the side of the road in the rain.  Oh, it was awful, Sam!  Jenny’s wedding is in three months.  What will she do without Jack to walk her down the aisle? What do I do now, Sam, what do I do?”

“You breathe, and just take one tiny moment at a time.  I know you have others with you right now, but may I pray for you over the phone.  I want you to know that you are never alone.”

Sobbing, “Sure.”

“Dear God, Darlene is devastated right now.  Her world has exploded.  Please assure her that your presence and your comfort is like a gentle rain on dry ground.  I trust you will be faithful to guide her moment by moment.  Thank you for your reassuring love when our world seems so unloving and harsh. Amen. . . . Kathryn and I want to come by, what would be the best time to do that?  If you don’t know, let me talk with your son and he can suggest what time would work best.”

The important component of bereavement care is to KEEP caring ~ the rest of their lives.  The first few weeks and months requires constant touching base.  Remember the “firsts” with those who mourn.  What does this look like?  A note, card, text, or e-mail with a photo of the deceased, an invitation for a meal at your home, meet at a coffee shop, a game of golf . . . small things that let them know you care and want to support them through this difficult transition of living with a broken heart.

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