Network News. (1998, March/April/May). From grief to joy. Network news: Christians encouraging one another. 8(3), March/April/May 1998. P.O. Box 479, Beverly, MA 01915. Email: email@example.com Website: www.networknews.org
From its opening editorial, through an article on commemorating the dead on All Saints Day and comments from a hospital chaplain, to its letters to the editors, this community publication contains many practical insights and points of encouragement. The well-known preacher and professor, Dr. Haddon Robinson, tells how he came to write Through The Valley and explains how he sees the nature of grief, not only in the loss of a family member or close friend but in the “ ‘many other losses that cause us to grieve: the loss of a limb, retirement, even the death of a pet. Whatever the cause, the grief is real, and the process of coping is the same…When we are faced with the death of a loved one, the first reactions are numbness and disbelief, especially if the death was sudden. It takes time to accept the reality of a person’s death, even if it was expected.’ ”
Dr. Robinson further advises that the best way to help a friend
‘up to the time of the funeral, is simply to “be there.” Just listen and weep with them. Remember the story of Lazarus’ death in John 11…‘Jesus wept.’ The tears are personal. We (the living) have been left behind. We need to allow the bereaved to weep.’
This professor goes on to suggest that it usually takes a grieving person
‘six months to a year to begin to realize the extent of the loss. Feelings of fear and anger mix with grief. It seems impossible to pray. C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed) said it felt as if God had locked and bolted the door. Knowing this helps the mourner recognize that grief is a universal reality.’
‘The expression of grief is essential. It will either happen properly or it will come out in other ways. It is important to let the bereaved talk about the person who died. Life goes on; it needs to be rebuilt with the memory but without the pain. Share your stories of the deceased with the grieving. Encourage them to keep a journal. (There are excellent workbooks for children who have lost a parent or friend). Journaling helps people think about resolving grief.’
‘Eventually, the dark days begin to brighten. The bereaved will begin to put life back together: going back to school or work, perhaps taking a job for the fist time or getting involved in volunteer work. The pastor and friends should encourage this. Holidays—especially Christmas—can be difficult, because they bring back memories. The grieving person should be encouraged to walk through the pain which accompanies the memories, to realize it is normal, even healthy, and then go on with the celebration.’
This interview concludes with advice to delay important decisions and to accept the support of friends.
Karen Bade was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 15. After a time of struggle and remission, Karen suffered a relapse while a freshman in college, and died as a teenager shortly before her 20th birthday. What struck people about Karen was her courage, faith, and genuineness. Her brother Paul was 17 when she died and remembers that “she had an easiness about her that was very inviting. She could walk up to anyone and just open them up with such warmth and sincerity and purity. She really cared about people. In the hospital, she would walk up and down the hallway, her IV bottle in tow, sharing her faith and vitality.” A small painting in her memory hangs in the lobby of her college.
Another professor of psychology shares something much more precious than psychological theory. He describes in poignant detail the death of his beloved wife. She was leaving, not only her very best friend and lover, but her two teenagers as well. First in the early hours of the day, husband and daughter face the terror, the pain, call 911, and clean up deathly soil alone. Then, in the two days that follow at the hospital, they appreciate support from church friends but treasure their personal final farewells. Daughter and younger son deal with the dying differently…quietly by themselves, going for a walk with friends, playing a game with folks from the church.
On the day before she died, she asked her husband why people keep asking how they can help me? “ ‘With a calmness that jolted me I said, “You are dying. People are only asking what they can do to help you prepare for dying.” It was the first time either of us had directly acknowledged her impending death to the other.’ ”
At the end, the professor writes,
‘I kissed and touched her, whispering my love. I told her many things, only a few of which I remember with clarity. One was a promise and one was a request. I promised I would dance with her in heaven. I requested that I get the first dance.’
‘She calmed again and after some medical adjustments, fell asleep one last time. Her breathing was labored now; she had set her face to die. I held her hand, kissed her forehead, neck and breasts, and talked to her with all the love and tenderness 30 years had nurtured…Finally, there were no more breaths. She had left me, her family and friends for Jesus.’
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
- How often and how do you think about death? Is it more about you own or someone else’s?
- What most impresses you here and why?
- Are there things in these articles with which you disagree? How would you state your opinion?
- Do you think families, children in classes, and churches should discuss death and dying?
- What would you like to discuss from these articles, and with whom and in what setting?
- Death is a universal experience which, can, nonetheless, bring devastation to a child, a spouse, or a very close friend.
- The theme of this local paper is an example of a community discussing the painful reality in many people lives.
- Should you want a copy of this community paper, you can probably obtain one from the address above. This publication specifically states that there is no restriction to reproducing this material.
Dean Borgman cCYS