Today I attended a very informative grief workshop presented by our community hospital. Dr. Kirk Neely, a Baptist minister from South Carolina, was the speaker. This was an educational function rather than a small group setting. Honestly, that works best for me. Dr. Neely’s presentation was based on his personal grief experiences as well as 40 years of walking with others through their experiences. He shared many stories with great insight and much-needed humor. Seated on each side of me were friends who lost loved ones due to sudden death; one a son and the other a spouse. The first portion of the morning dealt with “sudden death” grief. My heart ached for my friends as I listened and became more aware of what they are going through. Later in the morning, Dr. Neely talked about “anticipated death” grieving. This was much more difficult to listen to because it was where I am. I listened and wiped tears that could have easily turned to hysterics. Everything became so fresh: the denial, the anger, the bargaining with God, the despair, the acceptance, and finally, the release. You see, when Les took his last breath, I felt relieved. He was no longer sick, but once again whole and happy and free with Jesus. But with that relief has come some shame; shame for not being more upset. Well, today I learned that is very normal and okay. Les and I began grieving on Friday, October 8, 2010, the day we were told about his cancer. Because of that, I was already well into the grief process at his death, where my friends were at phase 1 at their loved one’s death.
We all grief differently and it is important that we allow people the opportunity to grieve in their own way. There is no “pat” way to do it. If you don’t understand this, then you haven’t ever faced true grief. It is so easy for us to tell others how they should be feeling and/or maybe quote some Scriptures. Unfortunately, most of the time these words are hurtful to the one grieving. Now, they might not be meant that way, but it’s just simply not the time. How, then, should we approach someone in their grieving? How about just showing up. How about just being there with them. Dr. Neely reminded us of Job’s 3 friends that came after his great loss. The first 7 days they just sat with Job. No words. Just there. What a blessing. If only they had remained silent after those 7 days!
It is always hard to know what to say or do when someone is in such a difficult place, but I’ve learned that words truly aren’t necessary. Family members have told me of people who said they didn’t come to Les’ funeral or by the house to see me because they didn’t know what to say. Frankly, neither did I. Please be assured I am not saying these things to condemn you if you didn’t come, because I love you anyway. I say this in the hopes of giving you permission to know it’s okay to just show up the next time a friend is grieving, with just a hug and a smile.