Friday, January 8, 2016

What Not To Say to Someone Experiencing Grief – Part One

  This post is a difficult one to write because it may offend you or make you uncomfortable. If you are reading this from the perspective of someone who has not suffered grief, my hope is that you will still take it to heart and remember it when talking to loved ones or friends who are experiencing something that you (hopefully) will never understand. If you are reading this from the other side of the coin, my hope is that it brings you comfort to know that you are not alone and it is normal to feel hurt, offended, or even bitter when on the receiving end of any of these well-intentioned (or not) comments and perhaps it will save some of us from having to listen to them in the future. This also ended up longer than expected, so I will be discussing each comment separately.

 There are many types of grief. You could be grieving the loss of a parent, a friend, a spouse, or even a child. You could be grieving an estranged family member. You may be grieving an unwelcome diagnosis, either for yourself or someone you love. You may be grieving an expected loss or an unexpected loss. Not all grief is experienced the same. When Katie was first diagnosed with a heart issue, my husband and I suffered grief knowing that she would have to experience many things that we did not want her to go through. When she passed away, we suffered her loss. When we miscarried Lilly, we suffered the loss of never getting to know our child while on this earth. Each of these experiences was different in its impact, which has taught me that grief is a profoundly personal experience.

“God has a plan.” – Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I KNOW that God has a plan. However, this is not it and therefore it is inappropriate to say to a person who is experiencing grief. 

Let me repeat that. My loss, your loss, is not God’s plan. In the beginning, God did not think to Himself how awesome it would be to let my babies die. You know how I know this? Because the Bible says it straight up:

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

God’s plan is for us to live with him eternally, to experience His perfect love together with Him forever. However, He loves us so much that He also respects us as autonomous people, and much like we do with our own children He allows us to make mistakes. And Adam and Eve done messed up God’s original plan in the Garden of Eden, when they allowed sin and suffering and death to enter the perfect world that God had created. It is because of that sin and suffering and death that we now have to experience grief and separation from God.

Now stop for a moment, because I am by no means saying that we did something wrong so God takes our loved ones to punish us. When Katie was born with HLHS, I took comfort in the following verses:

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” John 9:1-3

Even though the man’s sins (or his parents’ sins) were not at fault for his diagnosis, Jesus was still able to use the man’s condition for His glory. Not that that makes it any easier for those of us whose loved ones are not instantaneously healed on the side of the road as we are traveling to Starbucks. Sometimes our loved ones die and we suffer grief because we live in an imperfect world where death and suffering exist.

Thankfully, God also loves us so much that He made another way for His plans to succeed (because they will… I read ahead and He wins). He decided that He was willing to endure a double whammy of grief Himself… for us. He allowed Himself to personally experience rejection, torture, and death to pay the price for our sins. He also (since He is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit at the same time) simultaneously suffered the loss of His only begotten child, Jesus. That is a sacrifice that not one of us would willingly make ourselves, yet He did so that we could again be reconciled to Him and be part of His plan to spend eternity in love and joy with Him. It does bring some comfort to know that even though Katie and Lilly’s deaths were not a part of God’s plan, their eternal life in Heaven IS part of His plan so I know that I will see them again eventually, even though it hurts while we are apart.

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