Ways to Weep With…

 

Weeping With Those Who Weep–

 

Four years ago last April…I fell asleep slumped over a hospital bed, up at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
And the next morning our daughter Selah died.
And I was kicking myself for moments-lost-in-slumber.

At first there was the piercing pain, where it was difficult to even breathe.
It was a deep silent scream that any mother who has lost a child knows well, a heart-wrenching moan that feels like everything within is being turned out.
Raw pain like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
And then it became a numbing pain–with whole chunks of time that I honestly can’t remember.
Later there was the walking-pain, where it was all about just putting–
One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.
Clinging to God and to each other, that’s what I remember.

But what I also remember is…the love.
Christ’s love through others.

On Sunday mornings, when a flower is presented to new parents, we rejoice with them at the joy-filled news of a new little life joining their family. At weddings, we celebrate as the union of two becoming one points us back to Christ’s love for His church.

But when someone is walking through the ache of deep sorrow, when someone they love has just died…
It’s often difficult to know what to say or do.

I just want to share with you some of the ways that our family was encircled by Christ’s love when Selah died. Please know that not everyone grieves in the same way and each journey through sorrow follows a different timeline. But these are just some suggestions that may be helpful when someone we know faces the death of a loved one and we are called to “weep with those who weep.”

Initially…

  • Bring a meal or even better, bring a freezer meal in a dish you don’t need back.
  • Be okay with tears (and cry alongside).
  • Deliver coffee if they are at the hospital or send a Starbucks card (someone did this during our hospital stay and it was really helpful because we didn’t want to leave Selah’s room).
  • Offer to care for other children (give specific dates and times or it’s very unlikely they will take you up on the offer).
  • If you know them well and they have other children, invite their children to join you in a fun activity (it’s hard for little ones to know what to do with a house full of tears and sadness and a break from that can be helpful). But be okay if they say “no” (I struggled with having our other children gone for very long and I still do).
  • Ask if you can help with housework, yard work, home chores (especially if it is a spouse who has died).  Again, be specific about when you are available.
  • Give financially, especially if there are medical expenses.
  • Send a card and share a memory of the person who died.
  • Offer to help with the memorial (brochures, music, food, slideshows, taking photographs).
  • Consider some symbol that will remind of the person they love (for us it is the cherry tree that friends planted by our church’s outdoor stage area. I look for it every single time we drive by the church).
  • Take time to call or write a note if something reminds you of them or the person who has died (someone sent us a poem about cherry blossoms in an email and it is still precious to me).
  • Off to help create a memory book (a close friend of ours took my box of photos & paper and created a scrapbook for Selah).
  • Offer to take a walk and just let them share how they are doing (but be ready to really hear it, even if it’s messy).
  • Ask how they are doing and verbalize that you care (often it feels scary to bring up the pain, but it’s worse to feel everyone has forgotten).
  • If they seem to be withdrawing, write a note and tape it to their car or drop it in their mailbox or on their front porch to let them know you are praying.
  • If you are close to the one grieving, know that it’s okay (actually, a relief, to laugh sometimes in the middle of the pain. It doesn’t mean the crushing heartache isn’t there, but there’s just a relief in the release of not always being so sad).
  • Know that they are probably exhausted (grief drains every drop of physical energy).
  • Be patient with them—speak truth and encouragement, but give them the freedom to hurt and to heal in God’s timing.
  • Know that nothing you can do or say will take away the pain (it’s okay to say “I don’t know what to say” followed by a hug).

And down the road…

  • If God brings them to mind, slip a note in the mail.
  • Leave up photos of the person who died.
  • If a song or event or joke or anything reminds you of the person they lost, tell them.
  • Put special dates that might be hard for them on your calendar (birthdays, anniversaries, the date of death, certain seasons) and pray especially around those times.
  • If it was a child that died, remember that child is still part of their family (Consider saying: “They have 5 children. 4 here and 1 in Heaven.” Just as we don’t stop having a mom when a parent dies…a child will always be part of a family).
  • If a child has died, pray for the couple’s marriage (statistically the death of a child often leads to divorce).
  • Offer to read the book Heaven with them (by Randy Alcorn) and then do the study together (some close friends and I went through this the summer after Selah’s death).
  • Watch for signs of withdrawal and reach out if you see hints of it (quitting study, not returning phone calls, not going to church anymore).
  • Give a book about grief to them, but read it beforehand (it will probably mean tons to know you’re willing to dig-into-the-messy-pain and that you really want to understand what they are going through).
  • Remember that when life for everyone else seems to “return to normal,” the grief often feels heavier (for me, months 3-9 were the most difficult).
  • Don’t be afraid to say the name of the person who died (in fact, say it often).
  • Have patience and keep praying.

We had no expectations of how those around us would respond when Selah died.  No ideas about how people should or would or could reach out.
And honestly, we were just completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love.
Not everyone did all of this, nor is all of this a need for those walking through the heartache of losing a loved one.

But if God nudges your heart in any particular direction, He often uses these small (and big) gestures as His balm for hurting hearts.

And even now, it continues…
Four years later– Christ’s-love-in-action.
On the anniversary of Selah’s death this year…
A bunch of pink roses appeared at our door.
God’s fingerprints of love for us, even now, so clear.
We are forever thankful for all of you who were willing to weep with us…

And we saw Him glorified by your love.

Weep with those who weep.
~ Romans 12:15

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/barb.spencer.9 Barb Spencer

    Kara, reading this brought tears to my eyes. When my husband had cancer and wasn’t expected to live, our friends did many of these things you mentioned here and it was so sweet to know that God had not forgotten us and was showing His love through the Church. I’m so sorry you lost your precious daughter, but I’m so thankful God placed people in your life to help carry you through. Blessings, Barb

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you Barb…
      And I really appreciated your comment…I’ve been thinking about it off and on since yesterday.
      I really think many of these suggestions would probably be helpful for someone going through a different kind of heartache…facing cancer (as your family did) or an ongoing illness or a child with a disability…
      Your words opened my eyes a little wider to really take note of the different kinds of heartache that exists in the lives of those we have contact with.
      Such an opportunity for us to be God’s-love-in-action…that they world may see His character in our love for one another. Thank you.

  • Kari

    Thank you for sharing. This is exactly what I needed to read. My husband’s closest friend and mentor was killed in a motorcycle accident a couple nights ago along with his 16 year old daughter. I hope that we can use what you have shared to help the wife/mom and daughter/sister to get through this difficult time.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Oh Kari…I’m so sorry…for that family and also for your husband.
      One of the more difficult things for me was trying to understand how my husband was processing the sorrow. I’m so verbal. He’s not always.
      Will pray that you can be there for that family in a way that surrounds, but also for your husband as he must be hurting deeply right now.

  • Catherine V.

    This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing. You are a blessing.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you Catherine…
      I know your recent heartache is still right there at the surface…praying you have those close by that can surround you with His love.

  • http://www.joyfilleddays.com/ Sarah Beals

    This was a God ordained post. A family friend, a very godly Christian woman and mother of 11 lovely children died this morning after a very long battle with cancer. We pray for her each day and just this morning Hope asked, “Mommy, how is Mrs. _______ today” and just this morning I emailed her husband to ask how we could be helpful and to see if I could bring a meal. She died this afternoon.
    In devotions this evening, I spoke to the children about loving each other because we have no guarantees of tomorrow.
    Thank you for the “specifics” of how we can be helpful. They will come in handy in the very near future.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Oh Sarah.
      I can’t even imagine.
      I’m thankful their family has yours as friends…
      When I finish comment-replying, will stop and pray for her children and husband….so much heartache.
      If they have little ones, “Heaven for Kids” was very helpful for ours.
      And any book about grief by Nancy Guthrie.
      I’m so sorry…praying that somehow God will use this taste of sorrow in the lives of your children as well…I love how you have processed and prayed through this with them.

  • http://twitter.com/JenniMullinix Jenni Mullinix

    Be patient… I think think that is one of the wisest suggestions of all. Thank you for sharing this with the Thrive @ Home community, Kara!

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thanks Jenni…
      Patience is huge.
      I’m pretty sure I was an awful friend for the next long while…had a hard time looking and doing much past the hurting.
      So thankful for those who were willing to stick it out with me.

  • http://www.onefunmom.com Christy

    Oh Kara, this is helpful and sad and beautiful all at the same time. Thank you for being willing to help others with what you’ve learned.
    I really love your encouragement to be specific, as I’ve learned that saying “let me know what you need.” probably won’t be taken up on.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you Christy…

      Barb’s comment below made me think about how this really applies in many ways to anyone going through a difficult, sad, hurting time (not only the death of someone they love).
      It’s good for me to reprocess all this because it just happened last week that I said to a wife who has recently lost her husband– “Let me know if there is anything I can do”. And then later, I had to find her again and say…”Do you need desserts for after the memorial? I would be happy to call people and set that up for you…”

      I really think, the more specific, the better…

      We had a friend who looked up the funeral home for us, called them to let them know we were coming, and then handed us the # on a piece of paper with instructions of the next steps. It was HUGE. Otherwise would’ve been completely overwhelming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1034375456 Diane Anderson

    Kara, I believe the Lord nudged you to post this this week. My friend lost her beloved grandma this week, another friend lost her brother in law a couple of weeks ago and yet another friend posted that HER friend just lost her four year old daughter yesterday. I have been able to share this with those who surround these people as well as learning to listen to the nudges the Lord is giving me. Thank-you!

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Heart heavy reading this Diane…so much aching sorrow.
      Can’t even tell you what an encouragement your heart to follow His whispers is….
      It’s such a time to be His hands and feet…that others may know we are His…by our love for one another. Blessings friend. Love, K

  • http://myhometableau.com/ Johanna Hanson

    Thank you so much for posting this, Kara. We need to know how to better weep with those who weep.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you Johanna…

  • http://twitter.com/RachelWojo Rachel Wojnarowski

    Friend, my heart aches for you and yet rejoices with you in this wonderful way that you are coaching others on this journey. My own personal sorrows are made easier to bear through the simple practicality of this post- take the next step. Bless you!!

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you Rachel…
      And Barb’s comment below made me think about how many of these steps of love-in-action might also help comfort and encircle a family walking with ongoing sorrow…or sickness…or disease…the walking-heartache-pain.
      I know you live with that day in and day out, but still radiate a love for Him, a trust in Him…and joy. I’m really thankful for you and for our friendship.
      Love, K

  • http://danisejurado.com/ Danise Jurado

    I am so very sorry to hear of your loss… It is so important that we surround each other through all seasons of life, the joys and the devastating pain. Your list of suggestions are great reminders of things that have helped me through difficult loss and also of things I have done for others. Thank you for taking such a painful experience in your life and use it to help and teach others. Your heart is beautiful and so very pleasing to our Lord. stopping by from Grace Laced – Blessings

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you for stopping by Danise…I sense the heart connection with you.

  • Living Waters by LeAnn

    Oh Kara, this was such a heartfelt lovely post. I was a hospice nurse for 7 years and your list is just perfect for how to help others through grief. Perhaps you should think about writing a book on the grief of a child and share all the thoughts of today.
    Blessings and hugs to you!

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you LeAnn…there are many who have walked through much deeper sorrow than we have, but I’ve also learned that it’s not a matter of pointing to the depth of the pain, but of focusing on God’s love encircling directly and also through the actions of others.
      I can’t even imagine being a hospice nurse…the plan was for us to go home on hospice…and I’ll always remember the kindness of our nurses. Just another way God surrounded us with His love. Several of our doctors and nurses even came to Selah’s memorial…I just think it’s so important for others to know how much that matters when your heart is aching.

  • Corso Mama

    So sorry to hear of your loss. <3 This was a wonderful post.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you so much…

  • Alicia Bruxvoort

    So sorry for your loss. And so grateful for your honesty. A dear family in our little town lost their teenage son this spring and as school has begun again I can’t get them off of my mind and heart. Thanks for the tangible ideas. I’m going to follow through on writing that card and stopping by with a meal. Blessings to you and your family.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you…
      And I’m so sorry about the family who lost their son.
      I love that you are following His nudge (that they have been on your heart and mind) with love-in-action.
      When I was in high school, one of my closest guy friends was killed in a car accident when we were 16…I remember his mom sharing how while it brought her joy to see us all moving on through new stages (even the start of a new school year)…it also was a new kind of grieving…sorrow over experiences that she wanted to experience with him.
      I’m sure it will mean a lot to them…I love your heart in these words.
      Love,
      K

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janelle-Bryan-Miller/1524591712 Janelle Bryan Miller

      Wow, how amazing this small world. I just got done commenting above about my sons experience with losing his best friend, I scroll down and see that you are actually from my area and talking about the same child. Jesus is the great connector.

  • Lori

    Kara~ I’m stopping over from WLWW and I’m so glad you were right before me! I’m so sorry for your loss. Your tenderness in this post is almost tangible. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve experienced some loss as well, and this is a wonderful list of “real” ways people can “help” because most times people want to, but just don’t know what “to do.” Thank you again for sharing your story…
    Blessings to you!

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Lori…thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment…
      I wanted to come read about your story (can’t figure out how to get a link out of your photo)…but I can usually sense when some “gets” that kind of aching hurt…and for whatever you’ve walked through…I’m so sorry as well. If you see this…stop by and leave me your link so that I can connect.
      Love,

      K

  • http://becominghiseve.wordpress.com/ Hannah Williams

    Kara – I’m so glad you shared this story. So beautiful. Not everyone knows how to deal with loss or respond to loss and I’m grateful for the ideas you shared. Definitely will tuck some away for when they are needed.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you so much Hannah… Love, K

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janelle-Bryan-Miller/1524591712 Janelle Bryan Miller

    Kara, these are great resources to share with others who have lost a loved one. My son (13 at the time) lost his best friend back in April this year. It was a tragic, freak farm accident. The night before we were all together at a school function. Laughing, playing, and having fun. The next day…our worlds all changed in a snap. My son goes to a private school…and there are only 5 kids (all boys) in his class to begin with..so you can imagine how close they all are. I will admit…that instead of being there for the family (I was right after it happened) but in the months after…I sat here in the comfort of my home…avoiding the subject because I didn’t like the way it felt…and couldn’t even begin to fathom how much pain his parents were/are going through. Granted we were here in the trenches with our own son who was/is grieving the loss of his friend. But I really should have done more. This post reminds me that they still need others helping. Tomorrow marks 6 months since the accident. You can still see it on their faces. The sadness. Thank you for reminding me that we are still needed. I am so sorry that the reason you are able to give this beautiful post is due to losing your own daughter. Your ability to put these feelings and experiences into words will surely bless many people. I can’t wait to meet you IRL in just a couple of weeks. I already know you are an amazing woman.

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Oh Janelle…my heart aches for your son….and for you…and for that family. Such a huge hole. I’m so sorry.

      I’m reading this realizing this must be the 6 month day today and I think it’s incredible that you processed all that…that you remembered. I had one friend who showed up at my door on the morning that our youngest daughter was older than our 4th daughter. Sounds strange, but it was such a kindness. All she did was write me a note and tell me she loved me and it was like this precious freedom to let out the tears and heartache.

      When I was 16 my closest guy friend was killed in a car accident. I was supposed to get a ride to our church’s youth group with him that night and probably a ride home as well, but I got stuck at work. It was the very day he got his license. That kind of kid-trying-to-understand-loss-and-grief was totally different from walking that road as an adult, losing our daughter.

      Just want to encourage you to keep reaching out to your guy…to acknowledge the realness of the hole in his life like you did in your words above. It’s just a lot for someone that age.

      My friend’s mom and I were/are close. I was recently reading through her letters in that year after he died. Just how much she was torn between needing to be near all of us (his friends) and how we were also a reminder. But I think she leaned towards allowing herself to feel the pain…and to heal as she kept us in her lives. I don’t know if that makes any sense???

      Anyway–I just know that going through that in my teen years had a huge impact…eventually for good and pulling me close to God…but it was a lot for my heart and mind to process so young. I wish I’d had a better understanding of Heaven back then….

      I’m going to stop and pray for you, your son, that family and that God will give you wisdom…

  • Colin Mattoon

    Kara, I never realized you guys had gone through this experience during my year at SW. I’ve been working as a Chaplain in Louisville, KY for the last year. I just left that position and now am working for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. I read this and feel a resounding AMEN to so many of these great suggestions. Keep writing and putting your insights out there, they are helpful and needed! I’m glad you can speak so positively about the pastors at SW too. I’m not sure who you were referencing in your comment on Challies blog but as a guy pursuing ministry hearing more about what they did to care for you well would be a great blessing. Have you listened to Nancy Guthrie’s talk from the gospel coalition women’s conference titled ‘Grieving a Loss’? I think its one of the best talks and resources on grief I have found. If you don’t know about her you MUST check her out!

    • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and comment Colin…that means a lot.

      God has used Nancy’s writing to pull me through some of the darkest of days…and I often give her books to others who are hurting…love that you read her stuff…but I haven’t listened to that talk from the GC conference…thank you so much Colin. I will definitely find it and listen to it…

      Really everyone from SW showed us so much love…but Scott and Mike in particular are who I was thinking of when I wrote those comments.

      Scott came by the Saturday after Selah had just died on Friday and it was just what my husband (and I) needed…even now when I think back…the tears flow. He gave us the freedom to be honest and real about the pain we were in and my husband wept…and Scott just sat there with us and we knew it was okay to just be hurting…and that we didn’t have to keep up a strong appearance…that our sorrow wasn’t a sign of doubting God…that we didn’t have to quickly make a huge leap to “God’s purpose in her death”…that it was okay to just grieve and to feel the natural, deep response to the loss of a child.

      We asked him if we should even attempt church the next day…he gave us the freedom to do whatever seemed right to us…but that’s where we wanted to be. I’ll never forget it…I’m sure my sobs were audible. But Scott acknowledged our pain and that we were there in church and then he had the whole church stand and sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Scott leading :) You probably picture that (or maybe not) :)

      There was no pretense or sense that we needed to pull-it-together…he made room for our loss to be shared with the church family. It forever is something I’ll be thankful for…makes me cry to even think back on it.

      Mike RZ was also a rock for us during those days…you don’t think about things like what you will do for a burial or what to do after your child dies…you don’t plan ahead for those things. He took care of all of that for us…called the places…made arrangements…gave me a written list of steps we needed to follow through on. We weren’t thinking straight…that was huge.
      Those days are honestly a blur. So I can’t even give a fair “thankful” to everyone who showed kindness…Jason told me later of Tom & Carl & so many coming up to the hospital (and that meant a lot to us) but I honestly have no memory of even whole conversations we had (sounds crazy…but it’s true).
      Anyway–when I was listening to the interview…just made me feel so blessed and so thankful to be in a church family that was willing to dig in and weep with us.

      Love to hear that you are continuing to pursue ministry for Him…
      Blessings,kara

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  • http://cultivatedlives.blogspot.com/ Heather H

    When I read Selah’s name in your Christmas letter, I looked back and found this post. My closest friend just lost a baby. A baby named Selah.

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  • http://thechuppies.com/ Kara @ The Chuppies

    Praying for the whole Hartfeld and Springstead family tonight…as Jacob and Stacy head home awaiting hospice.

    Please join us in praying for Stacey and Jacob and their little ones.

    Dear Stacey & Jacob,

    Oh sweet friends…
    All day long.
    All day long God has brought you to mind.

    And every place I went today…the conversation brought your family into our presence.
    So many are praying for you.
    So many are blessed and encouraged by your trust in Him.
    My heart is aching for you…the kiddos…but it makes Heaven all that much more of a longing. Stacey & Jacob–we know that you are clinging to His love for you.

    For your kiddos, we are praying His comfort and love will surround them in a way that surpasses all understanding and that this will be the piece of the puzzle that pulls each one of their hearts to Him in a deep, real, authentic, life-altering way…that somehow through this…they will know His love in a deeper way.

    Everywhere I went today…conversations and prayers are for your family. We all love you and are praying…

    Love, kara (for all)

    If you would like to send a card or letter to Stacey their mailing address is: PO Box 336 Monument Oregon 97864.

    http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/staceyhartfeld

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