From my journal April 20, 2002:
I vacillate between stark unbelief and horrendous grief. Everything seems so worthless – cleaning the house, homework, ironing. I hardly have the energy to do anything…and housework is my least favorite.
About all that matters to me is family. I worry about Joe. He’s not doing very well.
Joe could sure use some help on the yard. He just works and works out there. [We had to have major work on our septic system right around the time of the accident, and our yard was really torn up as a result. I was having major back issues at the time, so I couldn’t help him.] I know people have said to call if we need something, but I just don’t have the energy to make the call and ask. Can’t someone see he needs help and then just do it?
I’m thankful for the dinners…I don’t mean to sound ungrateful…but I wish someone would be of some additional practical help. Help Joe with the yard. Mow the grass. Help me fold laundry. Rake the gravel. Something!
Why can’t some of these kids just call Jenna to do something? Why aren’t their parents encouraging them to do something? Just include her in something…anything? She’s just so sad…so alone. I know she cries at night, isn’t sleeping well. Both Jason and Jenna put so much into their friends. All the parties we hosted for these kids. All the prayers I’ve prayed for my kids…AND their friends…for so many years. Where are they now? Why aren’t they here for Jenna?
A card was delivered with a tree today. I asked Jenna if she wanted to read it, and she said, “Why? They all say the same thing – we’re sorry; we’re praying; call us if we can do anything. And then we never hear from them again!”
The Bible says that faith without works is dead…to be instant in season and out of season. Doesn’t that mean to do something more than just telling us that they’re praying for us? (I appreciate the prayers, but we need practical help!) Doesn’t that mean to help even though it’s not easy or convenient?
I don’t want to be bitter; I don’t want to be judgmental. I want to have a pure heart.
I feel like it’s an important thing to have a pure heart so my heart can heal properly. Things will never be the same; I’ll never be the same. This emptiness will always be with me that Jason is gone. But I don’t want to have a deformed heart, one that’s shaped from bitterness or judgments.
But…we sure could use some help! Where are you? Please help us!
For someone who doesn’t know what to do for a grieving person, I would suggest reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman as a starting point. Although this book is written for couples, it has a lot to say about love languages in general and what a person would really appreciate as a demonstration of love by another. In order to really show love to another person that he or she will understand and appreciate, it helps to know a little about the other person’s love language and to speak that language back to him or her.
For example: I am a helper person, one who serves by doing. I enjoy spending quality time with people in small numbers, but I have never liked being in the spotlight and am not a good small-talker. I am not naturally open and tend to be guarded. For me, as a bereaved parent, just sitting and talking about my feelings as a central focus was nearly impossible. At that time, doing something to help would have meant a lot to me or doing something together centered around an activity.
It’s also important to observe… put on your thinking cap…make a gentle (never mow over a grieving person with what you think they need!) suggestion or offer to do something…and then follow through.
- Observe: What is important or would be helpful to the bereaved parent (or griever) at that time? Family? Pet? Unfinished project? Clean house? Needing a break? A good cup of coffee?
- Think: Is there something I can do to fill in some gap in this area that is important to the bereaved parent (or griever)? Most bereaved parents are overwhelmed and have no energy, so doing something is usually appropriate and helpful.
- Suggestion: “I noticed your blackberry bushes were full of berries. Could I pick some and make some jam for you?” or “I’d like to come over and mow your yard. Would that be okay?” or “I’m taking my child to the park. Would your child like to go?”
- Ask again: Maybe your offer didn’t quite register the first time through the fog. Don’t pester, but a gentle reminder that an offer is still open may make a huge difference a bit later.
- Follow through: Make sure what you offer to do is something that you can follow through and then actually do it.
It’s important to realize that a bereaved person may not actually know what they need at that time or know what would do to help. Don’t be put off by a negative response…or no response at all. Ask again later…and again later. Observe…think…suggest…follow through…over and over and over again. If you really want to do something, don’t offer once and then give up when you don’t get the response you expected.
Very important: If a bereaved parent actually asks for help in some area, you can be assured that help is really needed. It’s really hard for a bereaved parent to ask for help, no matter how many offers of “call me if I can do anything” he or she may have had. It just takes too much energy to make the call for help, so most bereaved parents never ask.
Above all, be kind, gentle, available…and don’t allow your feelings to be hurt. You could be that person who makes a difference.