As I sat down to blog today, I wasn’t really sure in what direction to go in. I could talk about my detox lifestyle change (minimal carbs and refined sugars) but I still am in that phase where I want to fling myself off a roof or lock myself in a closet with a baguette, so the topic might still be a little fresh. (Or concerning when you realize how truly in love with carbs and sugars I really am/was.) I could talk about my bucket list but, well, to be honest, I haven’t made any progress with it yet. We could talk Thanksgiving plans or about my latest song roulette attempts, but it’s all kind of low key. So instead, I walked away from the computer and picked up the book I am rereading (Hannah’s Hope) and found myself at the chapter on anguish and grief.
The chapter starts:
“Her heart petitioned the name too holy to voice. Yahweh, will I ever have a labor story to share with the women at the city well? How I long for morning sickness! Will I know the joy of snuggling my child to my breast? Could it truly be that I may never watch my own chubby-legged infant attempt his first tottering steps? Will I ever cry as I send my son off to his first day of studying the Torah? Might I never be the mother of the bride? A lifetime of losses overwhelmed Hannah…”
This story, an interpretation of Hannah’s emotions based on 1 Samuel 1, struck a chord with me today. Recently, I have been talking to women who are in the stage of grieving over the sorrow of not having their dreams be what they imagined. So many people can brush such sorrow under the rug. It can be hard to mourn with someone over what they hoped for or thought might be. When you haven’t gone through their circumstances, validating someone’s ache can feel more gesture-y than genuine. “Oh, I’m sorry you are going through that. It will be okay. Just give it some time. Hey, do you want a mocha or latte?”
This type of grief can be with many things. Maybe it’s the boyfriend you don’t have. You sit and wonder if you will ever have the chance to share an engagement story or make a bucket list with your spouse. The future of those hopes and dreams of being a bride and a wife seem so far away and at times, you feel hopeless. Or perhaps it’s a job that is in line with your passions. You feel trapped and wonder if you will ever wake up on a Monday and enjoy going into the office. You never imagined yourself so miserable in your career. Or it could be that you are losing hope that your spouse will ever come to know Christ, and you keep waiting and waiting and waiting for that day to come when you can share in the same Hope. It’s all grieving the could-be’s and potential losses.
Guess what. We are made in God’s image and our emotions, our humanness, come from Him. Grief is a normal emotion to have. But here’s the thing many of us can forget – we are not told not to grieve in the Bible – but we ARE told not to grieve as those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) So guard your heart and hang onto that hope … which I have talked about many times throughout the blog.
So this Thanksgiving, as you sit around with friends and family, some of whom might be going through tough times, here are a few suggestions of how to handle them/us.
- Give them the opportunity to talk about it. Ask open ended questions about how they are doing or feeling. Let them be sad if they are sad. Don’t try to put an “it will all be okay” bandaid over their sorrow. Affirm their emotions as they struggle with their current situation and don’t downplay their frustrations or emotions.
- Give them the opportunity to not talk about it. Use your common sense to evaluate someone’s non-verbal’s. If you ask someone how they are doing since their separation and they change the subject to quickly talk about the stuffing, let them change the subject. There are many times people don’t want to dwell on their hurt. You have simply let them know you care and that you are available to talk to if and when they are ready.
- Help create new memories. This world has so many opportunities for laughter and joy. Take advantage of being a distraction from the pain someone is going through. I read today “We cannot too often dwell on the past, not so as to erase it, but rather to augment our life with a salting of the good in this world.” Make a plan, take them to a coffee shop or partner up and tackle a corny gingerbread house kit. The distraction is so nice.
- Remember your words are powerful. A simple word of encouragement goes a long way. Remember that we are sent here to “watch and pray”. Not to “watch and criticize” or “watch and judge” or “watch and vent about all our frustrations in the area that someone may be sensitive about”. Use your words to lift someone up. Know your audience. And don’t mutter the words “you really should be over it by now” or “perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.”
- Share hope with them. Don’t just assume someone KNOWS you support them. Say it. Send a card or a Facebook message. Text them an encouraging verse or simply a “Have a great day!” message. Let them know you are there. It’s amazing how blessed someone feels when you reach out to them and let them know you care and are hoping for the best. It reminds us we are not alone in our fight.
So whatever it is that you are facing – infertility, the loss of a spouse due to death or divorce, money troubles, singleness, memories of a lost child, the ache of a child who has gone astray, health issues, homesickness, difficult family dynamics … just know you aren’t alone. And the feelings you have of anguish are normal to feel.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). Notice that it doesn’t say rushed. Don’t feel the need to rush those as they grieve. Encourage them, listen to them, give them a safe space to process, help distract them when needed and above all, pray for them. For there is a day and time when we will be able to be able to rejoice over answered prayers or celebrate being at peace with a new normal.
With all that said, it’s probably time to go prep some vegetables for snacks (Yum. No sarcasm here. *cough*) and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. (Ahhh, there is something so cheesily wonderful about knowing exactly what is going to happen.) I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving if I don’t get on here before then! Please, eat an extra bite of stuffing in my honor … just don’t send me a picture of it. Gobble gobble!