Posts Tagged ‘Grief’

“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, For the hand of God has struck me! Job 19:21 (NKJV)

Deb Kulkkula and Gordon Livingston tell us two more things we should say to a parent grieving the loss of their child:

  1. “I gave to his memorial fund.” Many bereaved parents fear that their children will be forgotten. The friend of a bereaved parent set up a memorial fund for their son and each year on the anniversary of the boy’s death they make a contribution.  For his parents, the sense of continuing and remembrance goes a long way.  Another parent was comforted when she was told her church started a scholarship fund in memory of her late son.
  2. “I mowed the lawn.” People often voice the open-ended offer, “if there’s anything I can do.” which will probably not work because the bereaved person won’t want to ask for help or might not even know what they need. It’s better to make a more specific offer such as “I’m bringing you a meal tonight, I’ll be there at 6 o’clock,” or “I’ll take care of the lawn tomorrow.”

At the same time, there is one phrase we should never say to a person grieving the loss of a loved one:  “I know how you feel.”  As Livingston explains, saying those words “betrays such a lack of understanding of what the bereaved parent is going through.  People mean well by sharing their own periods of grief, like the death of their grandmother or a beloved family pet, as a way to sympathize.  However, those are not equivalent losses and the words more often than not are simply ignored or may even anger the bereaved parent.  As Livingston says, “To try to explain to people that this is the kind of loss that transforms you into a different person, that you will never be the same person you were before this happened, is almost impossible.”

Maybe the words of someone acquainted with death and grief may teach us what this sad experience can do to us: “We will let this bereavement make us more kind and gentle, more forbearing, patient, and thoughtful toward the living.”[i]

Father God, help my presence and words bring comfort to those who grieve the loss of their loved ones.  Use me as your instrument to help and heal their broken hearts.

[i] White, E.G.  Life Sketches, p.253.


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Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. Job 1:20 (NKJV)

What do you say to a mom or dad who has suffered the ultimate heartbreak, the death of their child?  July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, a project which Peter and Deb Kulkkula started to honor the families trying to cope after the death of a child.  Columbia, Maryland, psychiatrist Gordon Livingston, explained, “No one knows how to react. There’s nothing they can do so they come up with these meaningless platitudes… that are either dishonest or carry with them no consolation whatever,” Livingston told TODAY Parents.[i]

Most people are so uncomfortable that they may avoid you in public places and never approach you in private not knowing what to say or do to help you during this time of pain.  Livingston and Deb Kulkkula suggested these four things to say or do for a grieving parent:

  1. “Do you want to talk?” Don’t distance yourself and don’t abandon them. As Livingston says, “What works is your presence. There’s no set of words that will work each time, but being there for someone in a supportive way is what provides the most consolation.” Bereaved parents need people who allow them to talk, so look for ways to open up the conversation and give them a chance to speak. Check on them regularly so that if they want to talk, they can.
  2. “I remember the time when…” Don’t avoid mentioning the child who has passed away. For his or her parents that silence, not even mentioning their son or daughter’s name, can be “deafening.” Many parents crave hearing their child’s name and stories about them. They love hearing stories, memories, or anecdotes about their children as well. The problem with most people is their discomfort which keeps them from talking about it with the family. So unless a parent tells you, “I can’t talk about him or her now,” we encourage you to talk about their children.

We want to emphasize, your presence, willingness to listen to their stories and their pain, and your encouragement is more important that clichés, platitudes, silence, or distance.

Father God, Help me to be available and willing to listen to my friend’s pain as they grieve the death of a loved one.

[i] http://www.today.com/parents/child-loss-what-you-should-should-not-say-parents-t30596?cid=eml_tes_20150709

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ScriptureHear my prayer, O LORD, And let my cry come to You. 2Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; Incline Your ear to me; In the day that I call, answer me speedily. 3For my days are consumed like smoke, And my bones are burned like a hearth. . .   This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD. Psalm 102:11-3, 8 (NKJV)


Observation: Some think that David penned this psalm at the time of Absalom’s rebellion; others that Daniel, Nehemiah, or some other prophet, penned it for the use of the church, when it was in captivity in Babylon, because it seems to speak of the ruin of Zion and of a time set for the rebuilding of it, which Daniel understood by books, Dan. 9:2. Or perhaps the psalmist was himself in great affliction, which he complains of in the beginning of the psalm, but (as in Ps. 77 and elsewhere) he comforts himself under it with the consideration of God’s eternity, and the church’s prosperity and perpetuity, how much soever it was now distressed and threatened. But it is clear, from the application of v. 25, 26, to Christ (Heb. 1:10–12), that the psalm has reference to the days of the Messiah, and speaks either of his affliction or of the afflictions of his church for his sake. In the psalm we have, I. A sorrowful complaint which the psalmist makes, either for himself or in the name of the church, of great afflictions, which were very pressing (v. 1–11). II. Seasonable comfort fetched in against these grievances, 1. From the eternity of God (v. 12, 24, 27). 2. From a believing prospect of the deliverance which God would, in due time, work for his afflicted church (v. 13–22) and the continuance of it in the world (v. 28). In singing this psalm, if we have not occasion to make the same complaints, yet we may take occasion to sympathize with those that have, and then the comfortable part of this psalm will be the more comfortable to us in the singing of it. [Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (888). Peabody: Hendrickson.]


Application: A mud slide destroyed many homes and killed many people, in fact, it wiped out an entire community.  A airliner crashed killing all its occupants and leaving many families grieving their loss.  A child was diagnosed with terminal cancer and her life was cut short at the tender age of three.  Three firefighters were killed fighting an apartment fire in a large city.  A building collapsed killing many of its residents.  Five soldiers were killed with a road-side bomb.

We read, hear, or see stories like these almost every day in the news or online.  We hear them so often that they lose their impact the more often they happen.  It is as if we become immunized to the bad news a little at a time…until it happens to us or to someone we know personally.  It’s one thing to hear of a plane crash, but it’s another to know one of the passengers.  It’s one thing to hear of a police officer that was killed, but it’s another thing to have known him personally and attend his funeral.  It’s one thing to hear of the young cancer victim, but it’s another thing to be her pastor, her parent, or her grandparent.

For any one of us experiencing deep pain and sorrow David’s words become ours.  While we’re going through the darkest moments in our lives it is as if God were not there.  We cry out, “God, please, don’t hide from me in my pain!”  But the psalmist words are also very encouraging.  God is not hiding His face from us in our pain and sorrow.  On the contrary, His face shines in our darkness, His warmth surrounds us when we feel alone, and at the end we will sing His praises.


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for always being next to us in our pain and sorrow.  We trust You and that one day we will be able to praise Your name and tell others of your love and encouragement during our darkest hours.

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He Understands!

Scripture:  Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!  So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help. Hebrews 4:15-16 (CEV)


Observation:  cannot be touched with the feeling ofGreek, “cannot sympathize with our infirmities”: our weaknesses, physical and moral (not sin, but liability to its assaults). He, though sinless, can sympathize with us sinners; His understanding more acutely perceived the forms of temptation than we who are weak can; His will repelled them as instantaneously as the fire does the drop of water cast into it. He, therefore, experimentally knew what power was needed to overcome temptations. He is capable of sympathizing, for He was at the same time tempted without sin, and yet truly tempted [Bengel]. In Him alone we have an example suited to men of every character and under all circumstances. In sympathy He adapts himself to each, as if He had not merely taken on Him man’s nature in general, but also the peculiar nature of that single individual. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Heb 4:15). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]


Application:  I know that people mean well when they tell someone who has lost a loved one words like “I know how you feel.”  What they mean is that they too have experienced a loss at some point in time and therefore they know what that experience is like.  While they intend well by saying something that will help the other person feel better, the reality is that very few words, if any, will make a person in that situation feel better about their loss.

For any of us on the receiving end of such sentiments, we smile, we express appreciation, and deep inside we wish there was an answer to our pain, or that there was someone who was truly experiencing what we do and yet could remove our pain.  At the same time, we sure don’t want the memories of our loved one gone and fear that if the pain goes away so will those memories.  One of the things that parents who have lost children fear the most is that their children will be forgotten.

Our text for today reminds us that Jesus is the only one who can truly sympathize with us.  In other words, He is the only one who can truly feel what we do.  Now, while we know and understand that concept, it’s much easier to accept it and adopt it when things in life are going well.  It is in the long run, when we are in the midst of the day-to-day pain and agony, that those words really make a difference and begin to bring the healing we desperately need.

In the meantime, your loving actions, your presence, your kindness toward the bereaved are more valuable and more important than any words you may say.


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You because You are the only one who truly understands and feels our pain, and because You are the only one who can bring solace, comfort, and lasting peace to our lives in turmoil.

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Scripture: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

Observation: There are four words/expressions in the first part of this verse that are very significant:
1. Though – the hope we have is that “even if” we have to experience death, God is with us.
2. Walk through – which indicates that death is temporary, that is, we don’t remain dead forever.
3. Shadow – Even the shadow of death is frightening, but it has no real power to harm us, at least permanently. As unpleasant and forbidding as death may be, ultimately it can’t do any real harm to the child of God. Henry T. Mahan writes: ‘… Christ has removed the substance of death and only a shadow remains. A shadow is there but cannot hurt or destroy.’
4. Valley – a valley is a deep place compared to the mountain peaks. That’s what makes death so painful and foreboding, that it brings us down to the lowest depths of feeling. At the same time, valleys are usually peaceful and tranquil, a place of peace and comfort.

Application: We can apply these words of the psalmist to several situations:
1. When we are diagnosed with a disease that could potentially end our life. When told of such disease we can plunge to the deepest, darkest recess of our feelings. The fear, dread, confusion, anger, denial – all drive us deeper than we’ve ever been
2. When someone we love is diagnosed with such a disease. It is one thing that experience danger in our lives, but the closest we’ll ever get there is to know a loved one is going through that experience. In fact, for some of us, we’d rather be the ones dying that to loose a loved one to a terminal disease.
3. When we loose a loved one to death. While we know that death is part of life, we still can’t accept the fact that it has taken one of our loved ones away from us. For some time, we plunge deep into that dark valley of dread, despair, and darkness.
4. When we die. This is probably the easiest passage of all, because “the dead know not anything” (Eccl.9:5).
The wonderful thing about this verse, is that it doesn’t end with the dark valley of death but rather with the promise that God is with us as we journey through it. Whether we or a loved one are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or if they die, or if we die, we’re never alone. God’s rod and staff – symbols of His power and authority, of His presence and guidance – they provide us with the hope and comfort we need to walk through that valley and come to the other side, to the valley of eternal life, with Him.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, Our gentle, Loving Shepherd, thank You that we don’t need to fear death because Jesus has conquered it. And thank You that even when we or our loved ones have to taste death it is simply a temporary state until Jesus the Conqueror of death calls us back to life eternal. Thank You, Father, for walking with us through that dark valley.

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Scripture: But I would strengthen you with my mouth, And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief. Job 16:5 (NKJV)

Observation: Job had lost all his property, but what hurt him most was the loss of his children. Ultimately he was struck with some skin disease and with the discouraging words of his own wife. To add insult to injury, his friends, who came to encourage him, used words that were more like accusations and a call to repentance.
The words of today’s text are in response to Eliphaz’ boasted “consolations” (Job 15:11). Job would have like words that would strengthen him, words spoken from the hear, with love, words that would bring true consolation. The text could be paraphrased: “Like you, I could also strengthen with the mouth, with heartless talk and the moving of my lips – mere lip comfort could console in the same fashion as you do.”

Application: I know that for the most part people have good intentions when they say some things. I have heard people say things, particularly at funerals or to bereaved families that make me cringe. Probably the most commonly used are the words “I know how you feel!” By that they mean, “I have also experienced pain, so I know what your pain is like. The reality is that no one can possibly know the pain we feel because pain is a very personal experience. Just because I lost my father or mother I can’t tell someone else whose father or mother has just dies that I know how they feel.
Have you heard someone say to a parent whose child has died, “well, at least you have other children”? Or, “You can have more children”? Or have your heard someone tell a person whose relationship has ended, “There are plenty more fish on the ocean!” Our careless words, intended to bring consolation, may sometimes do more harm that they can help.
In dealing with people who have experienced great loss, your presence is often more helpful than any words you may say. Later, after the funeral, when you visit those who are still going through the process of recovery from grief, let them talk about their loved one. In fact, encourage such conversation by asking about their loved ones – their favorite memories, etc. After six to twelve months, friends and family go back to their own life and routine and inadvertently leave those grieving alone. It is at those times that your presence and encouraging them to express their feelings and to talk about their loved ones can become one of the most helpful tools for healing.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, help us to become instruments of healing through our presence and through our heartfelt words.

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Healing the Pain of Grief

Scripture: When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. (Matthew 14:13, NKJV)

Observation: Matthew 14 begins with the sad story of the beheading of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod. John had been thrown in prison for declaring Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife immoral, something that made Herodias, Herod’s wife, very angry. She found the best opportunity to get rid of John on the day of Herod’s birthday. Using her own daughter as the bait, she caught Herod in a moment if weakness, when lured by the sensual dance of his step-daughter he offered her anything she wanted. Prompted by her mother, she asked for John’s head. . . the death sentence was passed and carried out immediately.
John’s disciples took his body to be buried and then hurried to give Jesus the news of his death. Today’s passage tells us that when Jesus heard the news, He departed to a deserted place. Evidently, while this took place, the disciples had also come back from their first missionary journey with various degrees of success and lots of stories to tell. People were constantly surrounding Jesus, so His desire for some time away from them was not just for His own benefit but also for His disciples’ benefit.

Application: Those of us who are introverts can appreciate Jesus’ need to go away by Himself when He heard the news of John’s death. We need to keep in mind that John was not only His forerunner, the one who baptized Him, and a powerful, compelling speaker; he was also Jesus cousin. Losing John was not simply losing a colleague in the ministry, it was losing a close member of His family.
Ellen White writes, “In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Saviour found it necessary to turn aside from ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father. As the throng that had followed Him depart, He goes into the mountains, and there, alone with God, pours out His soul in prayer for these suffering, sinful, needy ones (The Ministry of Healing, p.58).
As a police and hospice chaplain I have had to attend to people who have just lost a loved one. Many are assisted by well-meaning relatives and friends who give them words which sound encouraging but do nothing to alleviate the pain. Words like, “I know how you feel,” or “You should be glad. . . at least they’re not suffering anymore,” or “He/she’s in a better place and they’re watching over you,” or “My father/mother/sister/friend died of the same thing.” I wish they would understand that at moments of sorrow it is not what you say what your presence and willingness to listen that can make the greatest difference for those grieving the death of their loved one. Others, afraid that the living will suffer beyond their ability to survive will offer them some medication or suggest they ask their physician for a prescription. Someone said that a lot of the mental challenges stem from unresolved grief, because people didn’t give themselves or others didn’t allow them time to grieve.
Jesus’ example is best. In His grieve, He took some time to be alone. And he also understood that His disciples were tired and the news of John’s death, as well as the constant pressure of having to take care of people, could be detrimental to their health, faith, and well-being, so He took them appart for a while. We, too, need some time off, after a traumatic situation, after the death of a loved one, to release our grief and to recharge our emotional batteries. Allow yourself to feel the pain, the void left by your loss, to sorrow and grieve. Live and express your emotions without hurting yourself or others; this is part of the normal process of grieving and healing.

Prayer: Father, thank You for allowing us to see a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity and the sorrow He felt at the death of John. During our time of sorrow, help us to feel and to live out our pain so that healing will come naturally and faster than if we suppress it all.

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