June 26, 2019
Father’s Day this year turned out to be a difficult day for a friend of mine — he faced it for the first time without his son.
Another friend wondered whether to mention it or leave her concern unsaid.
My suggestion was to say something, to acknowledge his son’s passing and recognize the difficulty of that day — and any day really.
After all he hasn’t forgotten his son nor what happened so our bringing it up wouldn’t cause extra hurt or grief.
However, acknowledging his son and his pain could be therapeutic for him, maybe even comforting.
The same is true for all of our grieving friends.
Even if tears appear or the grieving person chooses not to say much, try to allow him or her to embrace the tenderness of the moment without feeling rushed to respond.
Hearing his or her loved one’s name and knowing someone else remembers draws a variety of emotions to the surface.
Let your friend work through those emotions and avoid the temptation to talk too much or say something to hurry up the tears.
We all want to make it better, to take away the pain, but sometimes it isn’t possible — at least in human terms.
And saying too much can sometimes be overwhelming for the person or put him or her on the spot to have to respond.
The ministry of presence makes the difference.
We rarely need to say much, if anything.
Being present, giving our friend permission to grieve and intentionally finding simple ways to help along the journey can decrease the intense loneliness.
Walking through grief is hard enough but adding a layer of consistent loneliness pushes it up to the edge of unbearable.
And one thing I’ve learned is that many people who are beaten down with the heartache of grief and loneliness in their lives don’t have the strength to even reach out, to let you know how they are struggling.
They put on the mask and push through the moment or the day while people buzz all around them never noticing the pain in their eyes.
Many times the grieving say all the right things to keep the rest of us from worrying.
It makes me sad to think about how many times I’ve missed an opportunity to be a listening ear or an encouraging friend.
Keeping our attention on those around us rather than ourselves is a good first step in noticing what others might need.
Another step is to intentionally look for opportunities to make a difference.
And then there’s the listening to God part.
Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and doing something when He brings specific people to mind will change you in a powerful way.