Matters of Bereavement

As you may or may not already know, my dad went Home this past April. It was quite a shocking blow to all of us. I am 46 years old, and we have never lost anyone in our immediate family. I will even admit something to you; I never thought my family would go through such loss. Even my brothers (a couple of whom are still running from God), through all their asinine shenanigans and rebellion, are alive and well.  I, the one kid out of 8 with the myriad health issues, am alive and well. I have always pictured my family going to glory together. I did not realize it until recently, but I have lived each day “knowing” that we were untouchable by such a cruel hand as death.  Boy, was I slapped awake!

This is truly one of those things you cannot know/understand unless you have endured it.

Tokens

First, let me preface this by saying my family and I appreciated every blessing received, from kind words and food to flowers and financial gifts. I am not disparaging anything done for us in anyway. This experience, however, has just caused me think.

In those early moments you are not up to much talking or hearing about who else has passed away. It is all you can do to keep your head on straight.

During that first week or two the family is flooded with food, condolences, calls, gifts and cards. All of this is good and a wonderful blessing.

It seems to me, however, the actual care for the grieving family should really begin once the service is complete. That first week or two before the service is a blur and barely remembered. The real difficult road begins after your loved one is laid to rest. 

The family’s toughest path is ahead of them. They must learn how to adjust to life without the family member(s) now ripped away from them. They often return to a home filled with memories, smells and sounds of one no longer there. They must deal with the discombobulation, bewilderment, fears, uncertainty, waves of sadness etc., and ofttimes all alone. Where is the help during those times? Where are the offerings of food when they have completely forgotten they are supposed to eat? Where are the encouraging phone calls, cards, or surprise visits to check on their well-being?

After my dad’s service I noticed all the concern seemed to instantly cease. The weeks following the service is when such gestures are most needed. I recall feeling like we had just been dropped like a hot brick; that people had given their traditional tokens and moved on. It seemed my dad, along with us, quickly became a distant memory. We were forgotten and nobody cared about us, the walking wounded.

Now I do not believe anyone meant one iota of harm or disrespect. I am just sharing how it looks/feels to the ones dealt such a devastating blow.

Have you seen this sort of thing in your neck of the woods? I am quite sure you have. I hope and pray this will make all who read this think.

Care ministry workers, friends, extended family? The care should not stop after the homegoing service ends. After the service is when you are needed most. Click To Tweet

Revelations

Watching various ones in my family and thinking back on what I have heard about the ordeals of others, I can say without doubt that devastating situations can and often will have a revelatory effect.

From time to time my dad would say, “what is in you will come out.” He was right. When something truly dreadful happens, you can learn a lot about yourself. The truth of what is in you will often be revealed, and those negative issues already recognized can exacerbate. It is a time when any personal flaw can be used against you.  

If you lived a life of instability you may find it worsens after an unexpected traumatic event. Claim to be a follower of Christ? The validity of your faith will be revealed.

Were you shaken and muddle headed but turned to God for help and strength to make it through? Or did you take the advice of Job’s wife and curse God?

The possible questions are endless. The point is, shattering blows will expose what you’re made of. At such moments, the enemy will definitely come prowling, using every unguarded area against you.

Do not live in denial; do not lie to yourself. Accept the truth of what you see and do what you know you should do; do what you know is right.

This thing called grief can make you “crazy.” Nothing is as it was, nothing feels the same, nothing looks the same, and you don’t know what to do with yourself. For a while your brain can seem like playdough, and it is hard to process anything.  It is quite the precarious time.

As stated earlier, the enemy of our souls is on the prowl during times such as this. Like a lion who spots easy pickings, the enemy skulks nearby whenever he sees us in a vulnerable state.

During these moments it is imperative to live particularly focused and vigilant. Families must be meticulously careful, especially when a parent has left this earth.

Practice Love!

My dad was laughing and talking one week and extremely sick the next week. Everything happened so fast it left our heads spinning! The fact that life is but a vapor became very real to me very quickly.

We never know what tomorrow will bring. So, ALWAYS practice love!

How would you treat your parent or sibling if you knew that moment would be your last? It very well could be because only God knows the number of our days.

Those things you were so upset about will oft be revealed as superficial and stupid in the twinkling of an eye, when you or the object of your animosity permanently leaves this planet.  

Be Patient

One thing I can say is that this experience is like no other. It can literally cause you to feel your brain is short circuiting and you’re losing touch with reality. It can really throw one into a tailspin, a downward spiral engulfed in fire! But who understands?

Be patient with the bereaved whether it is family, friend, acquaintance or even yourself. Be patient!

People grieve differently; don’t expect everyone to handle it the same as another. Are you helping or adding to the load they carry? Are you going the extra mile with love and understanding? Are you taking advantage of and neglecting your family?

Practicing love, as defined in 1 Corinthians 13, will help you avoid the guilt trip if/when the unexpected happens. Click To Tweet

Got Guilt?

The coulda, shoulda, wouldas are inevitable during this time. I believe it’s natural to have such thoughts and questions. I am so thankful when these thoughts come, I know without doubt that I loved my dad, respected him and helped him whenever and however I could. If he needed me, I was there. It gives me relief that, as the old saints used to say, I gave him his flowers while he lived!

I realize, however, there can be guilt that springs up after the loss of a loved one.

Guilt for neglect, guilt for misunderstandings, guilt for certain attitudes/behavior, guilt for ugly words/altercations, guilt for things left undone. Some guilt may be appropriate and some just plain erroneous.

This is another opening for the enemy to step in. Again, do not lie to yourself. If you were wrong, admit it. Go to God and repent, then forgive yourself. Learn the lesson from the experience and don’t repeat those errors with your remaining family and friends.

Believe me, your loved one is not holding a grudge against you, so don’t hold one against yourself.

As daddy would say, “don’t let the devil buy you cheap.” The enemy wants to use this situation to put chains on you. Turn to God, let him help you. Do not blame the God who loves you. God is the one who desires what is best for you, but satan only wants your destruction. Do not be fooled.

No Man/Woman is an Island

It can be extremely easy to become self-centered during a time like this. All you know is you are hurting, your heart is broken, you miss your loved one, you are depressed, you___________.

Ever stopped to think how your mother/father or brother/sister are doing?

If you have family, if others were close to your loved one, then you are not the only one dealing with these thoughts and feelings. You are not alone. You can band together with your family or choose to be a one-man gang. The latter is the wrong choice.

If you have loved ones with whom to go through this period of grieving, then you are blessed. But if you go off to lick your wounds alone, it is selfish and increases the pain of others.  And it does not do you a bit of good either.

It adds stress and pain to an already difficult situation and places you in a vulnerable state. There is strength in numbers, right? Running away never helps, and it only allows the enemy more room to ensnare you!

The fact is that talk is cheap; the proof is in the doing. Neglecting family at such times makes them feel like they have lost 2 people instead of one. If the tables were turned how would you feel? Exactly, now you’re getting it!

TRUTH IS TRUTH Whether You Like it/Understand it or Not

Finally, after difficult life events our thinking can be fuzzy. But we must not allow ourselves to forget strategic truths.

I know this post was rather lengthy, but its message is important. May it offer you some help and encouragement when you face your own unexpected turns or find yourself in position to help someone else.

Until next time,

God bless you!

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