Kuyper Coffee Dates- Friday (Grief Edition)

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Another day, another coffee date.   I don’t know about you but I’m feeling pretty blessed on this end.

Today I want to cluster some of the grief-specific student questions and put them into one post so that those who need them can access them easily.  I know that this topic was peppered throughout the other questions, but I want to dig into this specifically.  

“I would ask her what the hardest thing for her was through the accident of her sister and the loss of her parents, and how did she make it through?  I know the answer is ultimately God, but there are everyday moments in which the strength seems to deplete … and that is where I want to hear what she has to say”

The hardest thing for me about death is the unwavering permanence of it. There is no bargaining that will change it, no medical staff that can un-do it.  We cannot go back in time and save those we have lost, they we are left with a brand new life, with a huge gaping hole.

I can tell you some of the little things that I did to make it through: I was worried about forgetting things, so I wrote down memories and collected pictures and items that were very important to me in my relationship with my parents. 

I took a lot of baths because the tub was the only place where I was still and alone with my deep and painful thoughts, naked before God in every way.  

After about a week I went back to a modified version of my usual routine whether it was work, school or my family schedule.  I found that it wasn’t helpful to sit and dwell on things, that the processing and healing would come in the midst of daily living.  When it did I stopped and gave it priority and I was blessed by others who gave me space for this.

I went to counseling, every time, because I wanted to be sure that I was moving through each season with as much mental health as I could muster.

I can sum it up by imploring you to be intentional about grieving.  Telling your story in trusted settings be open about your aching.  There is no quick fix, there will always be an empty chair, but there is a better place ahead, when the wound becomes a scar and the breathing comes easier. 

“I would ask her what was the most helpful thing that people did for her when she was grieving her losses and what was the least helpful thing that people did.”

Great question, gold star for you!  I shall answer it in list form if that’s okay?  

Helpful:

1) Practical gifts & services: gas cards, meals, childcare, house cleaning, etc.  Helping out with all the things that fall by the wayside in grief.  Things that created margin for the grief.

2) Meeting me where I was: whether that was watching a movie, stopping by with a banana bread or sitting with me in my car, those that were willing to be with me in the mess of it all were Jesus to me in those seasons.

3) Openness and honesty about sharing pain: Those that opened up with me about their painful past, that shared real-life wisdom, became such dear friends because with them, I felt less alone.

NOT helpful:

1) Trite sayings such as “It was God’s plan” – really he created my mom and then pushed my mom in front of a train?

Or “God needed him at home” No he didn’t he lives in a heaven without time, he could have spared him for a while longer.  

These sayings made me flame up with anger at both God and the person speaking them.  Although, the more I grew in maturity, I was able to see them as silly words from a person who was trying to help but had no idea what to say and reference point into my pain.

2) Expecting Normalcy too soon: Those that expected me to be “over it” in a month made me terribly anxious because I felt as though I couldn’t be real with them, or that they didn’t like me for who I was, no matter what.

3) Avoiding me because they didn’t know what to say: One of the most painful parts of grieving is realizing that not everyone in your community will feel comfortable with your grief.  Those relationships often don’t survive, which is added pain.

“I would ask her how did she not get stuck on the why of it all happening to her?… it begs for a deeper answer.”

I have to level with you, I did get stuck on this one… for a long, long time.  I could often be found saying something to the effect of: “I don’t understand how God could let all this happen to one family, shouldn’t he spread it around a bit?”

But, the truth of it is that there is absolutely nothing helpful about dwelling in the why.   A wise counselor of mine advised me to replace “why” with “what.”  Instead of asking God “why” ask him “what now” or “what” he can do with it.  This question pissed me off at first, but as I grew I was able to accept that God could use something he didn’t cause.

Every once in a great while I still wonder why, but for the most part I’ve come to realize that we live in a fallen world where death is inevitable.  I will never on this side of heaven understand exactly how God’s will intertwines with the inevitability of death.  

This concludes Thursday’s coffee date.  I think I’m going to get a refill, would you like one?

Readers: I would love you hear how you would answer these questions.  What was helpful  or not helpful for you in grief?  How did you deal with the question of “why” in the losses of your life?