Today I'm gonna do something a little different and focus on those of you who haven't lost a father or anyone close to you, but have a friend who has. I'm sure there are times when you don't know what to say. In these posts I'm gonna focus a lot on the first few conversations you have about it and then maybe we'll follow up in a few months with some more advice for supporting people long term.
I've been thinking about this almost non stop for a week and I think I boiled down what I really want you to know into one statement: There are only two things you can bring to a grieving person that are truly unique to you: Your story and your love for them. Focus on those.
With that in mind, let me share a few principles that I hope will help you navigate your next conversation with a grieving friend and avoid some common mistakes.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
While we were traveling, I found myself thinking of my dad a lot. As a wondered why I realized that this would be the first time I went to Disneyland since my dad passed away. I had actually never been to Disneyland without him before and the last time we went was while he had cancer. It brought back a lot of memories.
I remembered how he hung out with me when I was too scared to go on some of the thrill rides with the rest of the family. I remembered holding tightly to his strong arm while we sat next to each other on the roller coasters I only braved because he was there with me. While I waited in line for Soarin' Over the World with my friends I remembered a picture of myself standing in line next to him while he sat in a wheel chair weakened by cancer.
When I saw the sign for the World of Color show I remembered talking on the phone with him while the lights colored the water around me one night. He had gone to my uncle's house early because he was tired from the long day. I was feeling crazy anxious without knowing why, and he asked God to fill me with a peace that surpasses understanding. I felt really blessed and humbled when I remembered that. There was my dad trying to get some rest for his exhausted, dying body and he takes the time not only to answer the phone but to pray with his anxious daughter and leave her with a reminder she would carry years after he had died, that even when anxiety passes understanding God offers peace which does the same. All we have to do is tell him what's on our hearts.
During this last trip I found myself experiencing a lot of unexpected emotion. Thinking of my dad so much in a group of people who I'd just met a few months ago and who knew nothing about my dad was really hard and led to feeling even more alone. I ended up praying a lot which is a really good thing. In turning to God with my loneliness and grief I found confidence that he is always there for me.
I would be sitting on the bus or in my room feeling so alone and then I would start to pray and I would feel God's presence like he was standing right in front of me assuring me not only that He is present but that he is with me. He's paying attention to both my surroundings and my heart and He is looking out for me. He is better than any father I could ever ask for!
While I never really ceased to know that, it did keep hitting me that God's original design was for every person to have a mom and a dad, so my frustration with the lack of dad in my life (which I kept being reminded of as my director mentioned his kids and my friends their dads) isn't unnatural or wrong. It's recognizing that fatherlessness is a result of the fall, no matter how it comes. (More on that in another post [I hope]) In the midst of that realization I started asking God 'why' sorts of questions and begging him (like a have several times over the years) to give me someone to fill that empty space in my life. The number of times I have told myself and others that God already fills that role as the Father to the fatherless may never stop me from wanting a human daddy. You probably know the feeling. I told God I trusted him and asked him to fill my longing as He saw fit. That was hard, but I held to the truth that God knows better than I do and a week and a half latter, I'm okay. I'm not really concerned about how any of my needs will be taken care of because the one who made me, knows how many hairs are on my head, and loves me more that I can imagine, has promised to take care of me. I will never need anything more than God and what He lovingly provides.
The same is true for you.