In the past two weeks, two people I know were told that they have about 12 months to live. Then a twenty five year old young adult, that was affiliated with my youth group, recently married his childhood sweet heart then died unexpectedly. We learn through these life experiences how precious our lives are and that they are a gift, a gift that can be taken away from us at any moment. If only we didn’t take this knowledge for granted….. yet we do. I read in the papers today that Michael Jackson’s daughter tried to commit suicide. This young girl has so much to live for yet she feels as though she doesn’t. Despair and depression have consumed her. Every 18 minutes someone in the U.S. dies by suicide, every 19 minutes someone is left to make sense of it. How do we overcome this suffering and grief and how do we accompany someone through grief?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to help us understand these life experiences any better and everyone grieves differently. What I can offer are a few things I learned in Pastoral Care.
1) Be a good listener– “Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes on the people around us.” Rachel Naomi Remen, MD from Kitchen Table Wisdom
2) Bless a grieving person with your presence- “A blessing is a moment of meeting, a certain kind of relationship in which both people involved remember and acknowledge their true nature and worth, and strengthen what is whole in one another. By making a place for wholeness within our relationships, we offer others the opportunity to be whole without shame and become a place of refuge from everything in them and around them that is not genuine. We enable people to remember who they are.” Rachel Naomi Remen, MD My Grandfather’s Blessing
3) Meeting the pain through prayer- Prayer is surrendering the reality of yourself and your life history to the Lord. Mother Teresa Sometimes we need extra Grace and strength only achieved through prayer.
Even Jesus needed to be comforted through his grief and anxiety of anticipated death. He was comforted by angels, Simon, Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, Mary His mother and His apostles. As Mick Jagger put it “We All Need Someone We Can Lean On” Find it a gift that you would be the chosen shoulders for someone’s arms.
“Compassion is the willing disposition to enter into the chaos of another.”
“In real life grief is a train that doesn’t run on anyone else’s schedule.”
“Time does not heal a painful loss…Grieving does.”
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are eyes through which he looks,
Compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, YOU ARE HIS BODY.