Not the kind in Downtown Abbey but the kind who see something that needs doing and just do it.
They open doors, return shopping carts, wash dishes, pick up trash and bend down or stretch high to help children or senior citizens reach what otherwise would be unreachable.
Some of us aren’t naturals but we can learn.
Because when we open our eyes to those around us and choose to be helpful we make a change to our hearts and theirs. We build bridges of grace and kindness that help to connect individuals and communities.
When a person feels seen, heard and cared for, they are much more likely to drop the drawbridge to their heart.
It’s no good saying, “Well, he didn’t ask for help” or “She didn’t let me know she was struggling”.
If we are paying as much attention to our friends and family as we are to social media memes and funny TikTok videos, we can’t miss the signs of desperation and hopelessness.
If we take time to ask important questions there’s no way we won’t hear sadness or loneliness in the reply.
So let’s stop acting like doing good is something only a few select individuals can or should do. It’s a myth that bringing meals and checking in on those who are no longer able to make it to our fellowships or church services or bingo halls is a special skill.
Compassion isn’t a calling or a gift or a virtue.
Compassion is something we choose to practice.
And for those of us who call Christ “Lord” it is a command.
In yesterday’s post I confessed I can look for excuses not to reach out.
When I feel like what I may say or do might make things worse instead of better it’s particularly intimidating.
Child loss is a uniquely challenging event for friends and family and even when someone longs to “be there” for the bereaved parents or siblings, they are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.
So here are five very practical, very helpful ways to support a grieving parent and their family.
It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.
You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference. But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.
While it’s true that you cannot “fix” the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practicalways you can support them in their grief.
I think Dominic’s death has made me brave in this one tiny place: I say things I might not have said before. I risk pain in relationships where I might not have been willing to risk before. I assume that if I don’t speak important truths RIGHT NOW I might not get another chance.
I long to be a burden bearer for my friends and family because I know what it is to bear a burden.
So I ask and don’t assume.
If someone wants to be left alone, then they are free to tell me.
But I will not stay silent or keep away simply for my own comfort.
The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.
Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.
It’s what you do.
And it’s actually the easiest part. Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family. The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground: “Where was God?”; “Why him?”; “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”
But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.
And yet those first hours and days are some of the most vivid in my memory. Who showed up, what they did, what they said (or graciously and wisely DIDN’T say), how fragile and lost I felt as precious friends guided me through so. many. decisions.
I will never, ever forget the kindnesses shown to our family during that time. I will never, ever stop thanking God for the brave souls that entered into our world of pain and simply refused to be shooed or frightened away.
The death of any loved one opens a door and forces you to pass through.
You cannot procrastinate, cannot refuse, cannot ignore or pretend it away.
Suddenly, you find yourself where you absolutely do not want to be.
And there is no going back.
Many bereaved parents describe the first hours, the first days after losing a child as a fog–we feel both horrified (I can’t believe this is happening!) and numb (Is this real? Am I dreaming?).