Monday, December 3, 2007

A Friend Through All Seasons

If you have a friend who is suffering the sorrow of loss through the holidays, you might be feeling a little outside the loop, not knowing what to do or say. That is a normal response, but a better response is that of being a proactive friend during the season that changes all seasons. Today's blog post, the third posting on this theme, is for you. If you don't have a friend experiencing sorrow through the holidays, chances are you will eventually. So printing off these thoughts and saving them for later may serve as a lifeline of comfort sooner or later. Feel free to post questions or ideas that have worked for you or if feel a little wobbly about helping your friend during his/her sacred season of loss. Here goes:

If Your Friend is Recovering From Loss:
• If your friend is grieving through the holidays, she probably won’t tell you what she needs because she is most likely in shock. It’s best to make specific appointments to drop by to clean up her kitchen or bathroom. Even if you tell her to call you if she needs anything, be assured that she won’t call and won’t ask. She's too numb and may assume you’re saying that to be polite.

• Remember that children often don’t know how to express loss. Asking them to draw a picture of their loved one or writing a letter will help them to begin to cope with the loss and to elicit happy memories of their loved one.

• Gender affects how people grieve. Men may tamp down worse than women—the bleaker pain resurfaces when tamped down. Husbands and wives or mothers and fathers should offer a generous amount of grace for those who grieve differently from them or seem to be taking longer to get through the stages of grief.

• Kindly refrain from telling a grieving person that they need closure. There’s no closure until we’re reunited with our loved ones in the afterlife. Instead of using meaningless “happy affirmations” or clich├ęs, simply weep with them without commentary or being a “Job’s Friend.” Sharing tears is a sacred rite of true friendship. Knowing when to fall quiet and listen is a gift.

• If your friend is grieving through the holidays, a phone call or a note in the mail trumps a million Christmas gifts. But one day out of the blue, I received an unexpected express shipped package. In it was a container of Mac eye makeup. A friend had sent it along with a very sweet note and a Winans worship CD. She had taken me once for a Mac make-over and it was her way of remembering the afternoon we had shared. Gestures of love don’t have to cost a lot. It’s the time you take to do them that will mean the most to your friend.

• My dear writer friend Lawana Blackwell asked me Jessi’s birthday at the funeral. It was an odd question at the time. But she wrote it down. She calls me every year on Jessi’s birthday to check on me. Remembering an anniversary date—the birthday, the date of loss, marriage anniversary—is another sacred day you can do something meaningful for your friend.
I'm indebted to my friends who thought that what they were offering me wasn't enough, but it was exactly what I needed or what Randy needed. We live in a world of excess, so the simplicity of small gestures is lost in the noise. God's extravagant love is poured through us and out onto others like perfectly aged wine. A glass of it is all you need.