Helping Hurting People: First of a Two-Part Series
You know how it goes. You are going through a difficult time in your life, and some well-meaning person asks you, “How are you doing?” I got this question a lot as a bereaved parent ten years ago. I usually felt like responding, “I feel like (fill in the blank). My son just died.” Instead, I would give some polite kind of response.
These kind people wanted to be supportive. They didn’t really know what to say. What do you say to a newly bereaved parent? “God must have needed another angel”? How about “Our children don’t really belong to us. God just loans them to us for a while”? Or, “That’s the worst thing that could ever happen to a person!” I also was told quite a few times, “You’re a member of the club no one wants to belong to.”
My personal least favorite was the following: “I hugged my sixteen-year-old son extra tightly today.” That was especially painful for me to hear because hugging my own son was the one thing I wanted to do but could never do again on this earth. Most likely, these people were trying to tell me that my grief and loss caused them to appreciate their children more. I’m glad it did, but that's too much information for a grieving parent to hear.
A good friend of mine who is also a bereaved parent had someone tell her, “I know how you feel; my bunny rabbit just died.” That actually happened. It’s hard not to laugh about it in a way. Laughing can help ease the pain, at least for an all-too-brief moment.
Part of the problem is that people aren't sure what to do when someone they care about is going through a life crisis. We want to fix the problem, but some things just can’t be fixed in this life. I realized—as other bereaved parents I know do as well—that people were trying their best to comfort me, and I greatly appreciated their efforts.
It is every person’s responsibility—and privilege—as an image bearer of God to care for hurting people.
Coming up next week in Part 2, I will share some practical tips on how to help people you love who are not fine—even if they say they are.