Friday, February 24, 2017

The Grieving Need You Most After the Funeral

John Pavlovitz wrote the article, "The Grieving Need You Most After the Funeral," which I first saw on Facebook. A link to the article may be found here and I have included it below.

My father died suddenly while on vacation three years ago. The event rattled the bedrock of my life in ways that are difficult to describe, and taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way.

One of the truths I discovered, is that when you lose someone you love—people show up.

Almost immediately they surround you with social media condolences and texts and visits and meals and flowers. They come with good hearts, with genuine compassion, and they truly want to support you in those moments. The problem, is that you’re neither prepared nor particularly helped by the volume then.

The early days of grief are a hazy, dizzying, moment by moment response to a trauma that your mind simply can’t wrap itself around. You are, what I like to call a Grief Zombie; outwardly moving but barely there. You aren’t really functioning normally by any reasonable measurement, and so that huge crush of people is like diverting thousands of cars into a one lane back road—it all overwhelms the system. You can’t absorb it all. Often it actually hurts.

This usually happens until the day of the funeral, when almost immediately the flood of support begins to subside. Over the coming days the calls and visits gradually become less frequent as people begin to return to their normal lives already in progress—right about the time the bottom drops out for you.
Just as the shock begins to wear off and the haze is lifted and you start to feel the full gravity of the loss; just as you get a clear look at the massive crater in your heart—you find yourself alone.

People don’t leave you because they’re callous or unconcerned, they’re just unaware. Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is, and so they stay up until the funeral and imagine that when the service ends, that somehow you too can move ahead; that there is some finishing to your mourning.

That’s the thing about grief that you learn as you grieve: that it has no shelf life; that you will grieve as long as you breathe, which is far after the memorial service and long after most people are prepared to stay. Again, they still love you dearly, they just have their own roads to walk.

Sometimes people leave because they suddenly feel estranged by the death. They may have been used to knowing you as part of a couple or as a family, and they aren’t able to navigate the new dynamic the loss has created. They simply don’t know how to relate to you the way they once did, and so they withdraw.

Or sometimes people see you from a distance and mistake your visible stability for the absence of need, as if the fact that you’re functioning in public doesn’t mean you don’t fall apart all the time when you’re alone—and you do. We all carry the grief as bravely and competently as we can in public, but none of us are strong enough to shoulder it alone. People often say of a grieving person, “They’re so strong”, but they’re not. They’re doing what they have to in order to survive. They need you to come alongside them.

Other times people avoid you because they believe that they will say the wrong thing; that somehow they will remind you of your loved one and cause you unnecessary pain. Trust me, the grieving don’t lack for reminders. They are intimately aware of the absence in their lives, and you acknowledging it actually makes them feel better. It gives them consent to live with the grief, and to know that they can be both wounded and normal.

Friends, what I’m saying is that it’s wonderful to be present for people when tragedy occurs. It’s a beautiful thing to express your love and support for those you love in any way you feel is right in those first few days. It does matter. No compassion is ever wasted.

But if there’s anything I would tell you, as someone who’s walked through the Grief Valley, is that the time your presence is most needed and most powerful, is in those days and weeks and months and years after the funeral; when most people have withdrawn and the road is most isolating. It is in the countless ordinary moments that follow, when grief sucker punches you and you again feel it all fully.

It’s three years since I lost my father, and on many days the pain is as present and profound as that first day.

Remind yourself to reach out to people long after the services and memorials have concluded.

Death is a date in the calendar, but grief is the calendar.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Funeral Songs -- "Heaven's Now My Home" by Libby Allen

"Don't Cry For Me"

"When Tomorrow Starts Without Me"
poem by David M. Romano / music by Roy Todd

Monday, July 21, 2014

Flowers on Graves ~ why or why not?

Last week at church I was visiting with a couple about putting flowers on the graves of our loved ones. It got me to thinking why some do that and some do not.

I remember when I was a child, my mom always took my sister and me to where her dad, our grandpa, was buried and we placed flowers ... real or artificial ... usually for Memorial Day and again at Christmas. Then when my mom died,  my sister and her family planted hostas and my husband and I brought flowers. Sometimes we did this for other family members buried at the same cemetery and also at the graves of my husband's family.

We haven't done it now for probably two years.

Perhaps busyness got in the way. Or the weather. Or perhaps it wasn't important anymore.

I think for those who have done it and continue to do it, it has become a tradition. Also perhaps, a sign of respect. We loved them, so we want to honor them with flowers.

But is it necessary? And does it mean we think less of a person if we don't put flowers (or a flag) on a grave?

Anyone have thoughts?

Some Thoughts on Death

Casey Dwyer, a young Christian, posted an article July 18, 2014, on "Some Thoughts on Death" on

 You can read it here or go to his blog, Revival and Renewal:

The world seems agonizingly resolute when looked upon with a grief-laden gaze. The trees sway in the wind in slow, methodical motions; the clouds traverse the sky in slothful, morose tracks at paces that seem, to the grieving eye, far too slow. Maybe this is because when many of us face sorrows like death (sorrows over which we often have no control), a look around the world re-affirms our helplessness to control our lives. Though in my grief I would wish the world would stop and mourn, that the sun would cease to rise and the bustling birds cease to sing, I begrudgingly find that this will not happen. The world moves on; I am alone.

At least that’s what I used to think.

Death and I have had to get to know one another recently; my biological mother died last April, right before my twenty-first birthday. It was a bitter time, and (as I described above) I felt quite alone in my grief. But I found that I had a tool this go-around with death that I didn’t have before; I had an understanding of it that helped me to see (with the much needed help of friends) death in the right lens.

What, then, is the cause of death? Death must be (I cannot believe otherwise, nor do I think anyone really does) a bad thing. We humans are relational beings, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Made in the framework and disposition of God, who is eternally relational (relating in himself as Trinity), we humans thrive basically on relationship, whether that be horizontally (between us and other people) or vertically (between us and God). Thus we shiver when we read Christ’s exclamation of the weight of his punishment on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Thus hell is viewed as utter separation from God, a place void of relationship. The separation that occurs at death is one that is inherently contrary to design.

If this is so, then the cause of death (being always in the plan of God) is sin. Adam sinned against God, and the consequence was death (Gen. 2:17; 3). Yet we might say that the larger consequence was corruption, or perhaps decay. This pictures sin as the destroyer, the action which mars and distorts that which is good. Thus the Creation, which is inherently good, decays as well; not only Adam dies, but all that is dies as well[i]. The world is marred by sin, effected in such a way that all that lives experiences decay in some form or another.

Therefore we can say that sin, beings death’s mother (cf. Jas. 1:15), is the real villain in sorrow. Sin is the reason why we decay, why sorrow fills our hearts at death. Yet it is a mistake to say that we are the only ones who feel this sorrow. In fact, all creation mourns over this state of affairs, over this marring of that which God made. Paul describes this in Romans 8:18-25:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Paul’s point here is quite profound. It would seem that, contrary to what I once thought, all creation does mourn with me. And not only does the creation mourn with me, but it also hopes with me. This hope is that through the cross of Christ the world might be redeemed, that the decay might be burnt up and that the world may again dwell in peace. What I didn’t understand about death before was how closely linked an understanding of it was to Christ’s work on the cross. Through Christ’s death death itself is defeated. Christ died so that death might die. We have hope, in Christ, that this banal death will be abolished and that we might live forever as adopted sons and daughters of God[ii].

[i] However, this does not answer the question of whether or not death existed before the fall in some aspects of the creation (i.e., would Adam and Eve have slaughtered cows or pigs to feed themselves?). That is debatable for certain, but it will not be debated here.

[ii] It is important to remember that the death of death does not mean that everyone will be saved. It means that those in Christ will never really taste death (cf. John 11:17-25), but those who disobey the gospel will taste only what Paul calls “eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"And them that mourn" --

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted an article Dec. 24, 2012, on "And them that mourn" -- Celebrating Christmas in the Face of Grief and Death."

 You can read it below or go to his Website, and read .

Families across the Christian world are gathering for Christmas even now, with caravans of cars and planeloads of passengers headed to hearth and home. Christmas comes once again, filled with the joy, expectation, and sentiment of the season. It is a time for children, who fill homes with energy, excitement, and sheer joy. And it is a time for the aged, who cherish Christmas memories drawn from decades of Christmas celebrations. Even in an age of mobility, families do their best to gather as extended clans, drawn by the call of Christmas.

 And yet, the sentiment and joy of the season is often accompanied by very different emotions and memories. At some point, every Christian home is invaded by the pressing memory of loved ones who can no longer gather — of empty chairs and empty arms, and aching hearts. For some, the grief is fresh, suffering the death of one who was so very present at the Christmas gathering last year, but is now among the saints resting in Christ. For others, it is the grief of a loss suffered long ago. We grieve the absence of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings. Some, with a grief almost too great to bear, suffer the heartbreak that comes with the death of a child.

 For all of us, the knowledge of recent events of unspeakable horror and the murder of young children make us think of so many homes with such overwhelming grief.

Is Christmas also for those who grieve? Such a question would perplex those who experienced the events that night in humble Bethlehem and those who followed Christ throughout his earthly ministry. Christmas is especially for those who grieve.

 The Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, reminds us of the fact that we are born as slaves to sin. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” [Galatians 4:4] Out of darkness, came light. As the prophet Isaiah foretold, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who walk in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” [Isaiah 9:2]

 This same Christ is the Messiah who, as Isaiah declared, “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” [Isaiah 53:4] He fully identifies with and shares all our afflictions, and he came that we might know the only rescue from death, sorrow, grief, and sin.

 The baby Jesus was born into a world of grief, suffering, and loss. The meaning of his incarnation was recognized by the aged Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who prophesied that God had acted to save his people, “because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” [Luke 1:78-79]

 There are so many Christians who, even now, are suffering the grief that feels very much like the shadow of death. How can they celebrate Christmas, and how might we celebrate with them?

 In 1918, a special service was written for the choir of King’s College at Britain’s Cambridge University. The “Service of Nine Lessons and Carols” was first read and sung in the magnificent chapel of King’s College in that same year, establishing what is now a venerable Christmas tradition. In the “Bidding Prayer” prepared to call the congregation together for that beautiful service, the great truths of Christmas are declared in unforgettable prose:

 Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

 Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child. 

 But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this city. 

 And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love. 

 On the very evening of the celebration of Christ’s birth, Christians are called to remember, in Christ’s name, the poor and the helpless, the cold and the hungry, the oppressed and the sick, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the children, those who do not know Christ, “and them that mourn.”

 The church is filled with those who, while not grieving as others grieve, bear grief as Christians who miss their loved ones, who cherish their memories, and who wonder at times how to think of such grief at Christmas. Far too many homes are filled with them that mourn.

 And it will be so until Christ comes again. The great truth of Christmas is that the Father so loves the world that he sent his own Son to assume human flesh and to dwell among us, to die for our sins and to suffer for our iniquity, and to declare that the kingdom of God is at hand. This same Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, conquering death and sin. There is salvation, full pardon from sin, and life everlasting to those who believe and trust in him.

 Christmas is especially for those who mourn and suffer grief, for the message of Christmas is nothing less than the death of death in the death and resurrection of Christ.

 And them that mourn. Christmas is especially for those bearing grief and sorrow. Our joy is hindered temporarily by the loss we have suffered, even as we know that those who are in Christ are promised everlasting life. We know that even now they are with Christ, for to be absent from the body is to the present with the Lord.

 Christians bear a particular responsibility to surround fellow believers with this confidence, and to minister Christmas joy and love to those bearing griefs. We stand together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, declaring with the Apostle Paul that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. We bind one another’s hearts, respect one another’s tears, and remind one another of the blessed hope. For, it was Christ himself who promised that our “sorrow will turn into joy.” [John 16:20] When we sing Christmas carols and read the great Christmas texts of the Bible, we hurl the message of life over death against the Evil One and death, who meet their ultimate defeat in Christ.

 That Bidding Prayer written for King’s College, Cambridge, in 1918 draws to a close with words that speak so powerfully to the Church about these very truths:

 “Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one.” 

 Those words are exactly right. Those who have gone before us to be with the Lord are with us in Christmas joy. They rejoice with us, “but upon another shore, and in a greater light.” Our loved ones in Christ are in that unnumbered multitude “whose hope was in the Word made flesh.” The great truth of Christmas is shouted in the face of death when we declare that, even now, “in the Lord Jesus we are forever one.”

 Your loved one was not created and given the gift of life merely for that chair now empty. Those who are in Christ were created for eternal glory. We must train our sentiments to lean into truth, and we must know that Christmas is especially for those who grieve.

 And them that mourn. The chair may be now empty, but heaven will be full. Remember, above all else, that those who are in Christ, though dead, celebrate Christmas with us — just upon another shore, and in a greater light. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blessed are the meek

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:7)

Who are the meek?
Are they gentle ... subdued ... passive ... low class citizens?

Max Lucado calls them focused - power under control. He says, "Blessed are those who know what on earth they are on earth to do and set themselves about the business of doing it."

I briefly checked in on and listened to the video, "Come Awake" which is below.

As it finished, I came to "99 Balloons," a video dedicated to Eliot, a baby boy with Trisomy 18 who lived 99 days. I share it with you.

I am reminded of another child I remember who had Trisomy 18. A little girl named Nicole. She lived 5 months before heading home to be with Jesus. Her story: "Our Victorious Heart".

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Amen.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How long will I grieve?

How long will I grieve?

Does it depend on something ... who it was, relationship, age?

How long will it last?

Everyone is different.

Every time is different.

Having gone through it before doesn't make the second and third and more times any easier. You have a better idea, perhaps, of what to expect. But maybe not.

My grandfather died when I was 10 years old. He was 81.

My mother died at age 86. My husband and I cared for her in her/our home for 10 months.

It took me three years to get past the immense sadness and pain of her being absent from my life. She has now been gone 14 years this coming September. It is sometimes hard to comprehend that it has been so long, yet again, it is like yesterday.

There are friends we've known all our lives ... those we look toward for guidance .... and there are countless precious pets.

I receive emails from Boone, Iowa author Jolene Philo who wrote "A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children." Click Different Dream. Some of her posts have dealt with grieving. Perhaps they can help you.