Monday, September 30, 2013

What do you say, when someone has lost a child?


I have known mega-grief in my life time. Our loss of a daughter and a grandchild (Lindsay and Emily) was very horrific and traumatic and there are many other emotions that roll out of a person when such a disaster occurs. They were killed by a heroin addict. The day was September 11, 2001, the driver and his two friends were shooting up heroin (syringes were found in the car) and the driver of  the car did not have a license. Robyn and I and two of our sons were right behind her and saw her get hit by the car.  After repeated, heroic efforts to save her were done by the fire department they both died. This sorrow was both surreal and indescribable.

It did not take long to run it to someone who was insensitive about my loss.  A police officer said to me, "Come on, stop crying and get yourself together for your family." I was on a cane and was still suffering from Lithium toxicity.
I would be helping my family for many years walk through the black surges of grief and post traumatic stress disorder which it caused.

By the grace of God, a chaplain who was one of the first responders was a Christian and actually had attended the same college that I did. He said little but his presence helped. My pastor and a missionary couple from our church talked to me at the scene while I wailed and cried and paced around. We would spend the night with our pastor and his family, and the missionary couple whom we had just met, the couple said very little but they listened and listened and I am sure prayed for us throughout the night.

Recently, I ran across a quote by Nicholas Woltersoff, who wrote the bestselling book, Lament for a Son. Here is the excerpt that I recently read again.

What do you say to someone who is suffering? Some people are gifted with words of wisdom. For such, one is profoundly grateful. There were many such for us. But not are all are gifted in that way. Some blurted out strange, inept things. That's OK, too. Your words don't have to be wise. The heart that speaks is heard more than the words spoken. And if you can't think of anything at all to say, just say, "I can't think of anything to say. But I want you to know that we are with you in your grief."

Or even, just embrace. Not even the best of words can take away the pain. What words can do is testify that there is more than pain in our journey on earth to a new day. Of those things that are more, the greatest is love. Express your love. How appallingly grim must be the death of a child in the absence of love.

But please: Don't say, it's not really so bad. because it is. Death is awful, demonic. If you think your task as comforter is to tell me that really, all things considered, it's not so bad, you place yourself off in the distance away from me. Over there, you are of no help. What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is. I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation. To comfort me, you have to come close. Come sit beside me on my mourning bench (N. Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son).

We are writing a book on grief. If you are a publisher (not self publishing) and it you feel led by God, please contact us.!contact/cito

Our book Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It is about the trial of severe major depression and how our family coped with it continues to sell well, since 2005.

Steve Bloem,
Cofounder Heartfelt Counseling Ministries



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