Question: A friend’s loved one passed away, what can I do?

Am always very sorry to hear of loved ones passing, especially if it was unexpected. As many people as there are in the family affected by a sudden loss, there are as many ways for friends to extend support and comfort them. In my family, everyone took it a little differently. Some were very private about it. Another more open with their grief. Some slid into depression. Some buried themselves in work. Everyone processes differently and there is no “proper” way about it. Hopefully amongst the close friends and family there isn’t any comments about how one “should” feel or act a certain way. We need to be gracious to each other with regards to how each person might be coping.

I found that generally, because each person might appreciate different gestures of comfort, you almost need to ask them what would work for them….but not in a broad “what would you like right now” sense because there’s so many thoughts and emotions in their mind that it’s hard to think of anything. I found questions like “If I did _____ for you, would that be helpful?” or “Would you want ____ right now?” or “Do you want company or just want to have some space?” or “Do you want to talk?” to be helpful….ask yes/no questions.

Personally, when I was in the depths of grieving, I didn’t feel like I should “burden” my friends with requests for company or anything else. I didn’t want to be a bother considering everyone else had their own families and work to attend to. But my good friends Dahn and Meth pretty much reprimanded me in saying I was insulting their friendship by not turning to them when they have offered to be there for me. I’m not saying you should reprimand your grieving friend by any means…but that worked for me. I needed to receive permission to lean on my friends. And I found my family did as well, though they heard it differently from their friends. So, let your friend know (maybe repeatedly) you EXPECT them to ask things of you.

Gift baskets are also nice. I like them for the practical aspect that they last a little longer than flowers do. But I would suggest if you’re putting a basket together, to include the foods and snack items that the family or friend would enjoy. We’re an Asian family and we received baskets of different jams and crackers and dip mixes. It was a very nice gift basket, but my family doesn’t really eat a lot of those kinds of foods. If it was roasted nuts, dried mangos, fruit and egg tarts however, that would’ve been more our thing. Find out what their comfort foods are. I would say hold off on restaurant gift certificates because often there are celebrations going on in restaurants, and it’s a bummer to sit next to one when you’re grieving.

Bringing meals may be a better idea. Meal planning when your heart and mind is overtaken by grief is a burden. Appetites are also not good, so a light meal is enough. Sometimes, if you ask whether they’d like a meal brought, they may decline…as to not burden you…but for us, it was nice having friends suddenly show up with a pan of fried noodles or a pot of soup to leave for us at the door.

And sometimes, just offering to go over and sit together is good too. Jewish ppl have a term for that…”sitting shiva”…where after a funeral, friends/community come together and just sit. You don’t  have to offer any words of comfort or really try to do anything. Just sit and share the sorrow. That’s often more comforting than anything you might think of saying.

Lastly, don’t take anything they might do or say right now personally. Grief can take hold and change a person. Keep them in prayers and walk alongside them if they invite you to. Walk alongside them from a distance if they don’t. In time, we become more ourselves again. And we will be thankful for those who walked with us the whole way.

——————————————————————-

On the flip side, if you are a grieving family member, I am very sorry for your loss and what you are going through. I’ve been there. Some days you’re not sure if you’ll make it through, but it DOES get better. Know that your friends want to be there for you. Know also that they cannot read your mind to know what you would most appreciate being done or said. Their assumptions of what you might want could be exactly what you DON’T want. Don’t be afraid to let your friends know what would be comforting to you. This makes it better for everyone. Allow them to be there for you. They love you and care for you. God’s peace and comfort is upon you, through them.

Advertisements

It takes a village

(From someecards.com)

You know that saying “It takes a village to raise a child“?

Is that still true?

I have many mommy friends…more mommy friends than non-mommy friends actually. Through conversation with them or through stories I hear, I get the strong sense that parenting advice/suggestions/help from others is sometimes tolerated but usually not welcome. I totally understand and agree that the parents usually know what’s best for their child or the style they want to raise their child in. I hear that sometimes they get so much “advice” it wears them down with self-doubt as to whether or not they know what they’re doing. Or other times it’s unwelcomed and ignorant advice given a circumstance others might not be aware of. It can drive one mad…so to stay sane, they just tell people to take a giant step back and let them raise their child in peace. On the other hand, there is also a lot of truly good advice and help to be had from seasoned and solid parents of great kids…because while “every child is different”, there’s also “nothing new under the sun”. Question is, where or what is that line for a villager to be involved? Do parents want a village around them?

(My guess is it also just depends on the comfort and control levels of every parent. It’s probably even different depending on whether you ask the Mom or Dad.)

I admit, sometimes it would be easier to just not care about the children around me. Hey they’re your kids, I don’t want to step on toes by helping, so I’ll be totally hands off…we’ll hang out again when they’ve left the nest. But sometimes, they really do appreciate the extra set of hands and eyes and help with the children. Especially if they have more than one. So…what’s the approach? If parents do want a village, how to be a good villager?

A conversation was had about this with Ms PR…mommy to a 18 month(?) old, as well as with my sister in law…mommy to four kids under the age of seven. Here are some take-aways that I’ll definitely keep in mind:

  1. Having a relationship with the parents is number one. If you don’t have a good relationship with them, you’re in no position to speak any kind of advice….because what do you know of their situation or circumstance? That said, I did hear of a friend whose baby girl was melting down in a restaurant when a stranger offered help, picked her up and totally calmed the baby down. Probably more the exception than the rule.
  2. Communicating with the parents before doing anything is key. “Is she allowed to do/have/eat this?” “Should I help him with that or let him figure it out?” “Do you want me to tell him ‘no’ or do you want me to just let you know about what he did after?” “Is it ok for her to play with my iphone?” “If She starts disturbing her sibling should I take her out of the room for a bit?” etc.
  3. Get to know what values the parents want the children to have regarding sharing toys, saying sorry, rewards and consequences, delayed or instant gratification, etc. I came across a post where a mom is asking others to NOT help her kids. It’s great! You know what values she wants for her kids and that helps define what to do or not do when around them. So parents, let the friends and family around you know what you expect, it’ll reduce the chances of them accidently pissing you off.
  4. Reinforce and support what the parents say to the kids. Keep the parent’s teaching/methods consistent if you’re helping out and don’t bring in your own way of doing something. Keep pointing back to the parents. So instead of saying “You have to finish your whole plate before leaving the table” (because that’s how you were brought up), say “Your Dad said you have to eat all your vegetables before you can go. It’s ok if you can’t finish the chicken.
  5. Err on the side of being super gentle and less involved with children and wait for the parents to tell you otherwise.

Any other tips for the friends of those with children? Who’s in your village?

Brokenness: Friends Forever

(Image not mine)

In high school there was a group of us friends that studied and hung together a lot. This was also when the TV sitcom Friends was hugely popular and my best friend at the time thought our group of friends could be like that. Live in an apartment together. Be friends forever. I thought to myself that we’ll likely not be friends forever. We were headed to different universities…paths were diverging. And it’s true, some are still friends today, but most aren’t in much contact. Including me and my then best friend.

In university, there were two girls that were the closest of friends to me. We shared hopes and dreams with each other. I thought, “THESE girls will be my friends forever for sure!” I loved them as sisters.

But one time, a misunderstanding or a miscommunication brought about a gaping rift in this “cord of three“…what I thought would never happen, did. Looking back there was fault on all sides…it doesn’t matter what happened though. At the time, I only felt deep rejection. And I felt I was betrayed by the friendships I thought would/could never break. I mourned what I lost. I felt very very alone.

God was gracious in providing some unlikely sources of friendship through that time. They were women a few years younger than me….as well as women a couple years older than me. I felt lost but these women were like threads in a net that supported me…and looking back, I am very thankful to God for them. I remember one time, after fellowship, “my” group stood in a tight circle talking and laughing. There was no room for me. I looked from the outside with sadness and left. But then I got a phone call from Stump, “Come join us for some bubble tea!” And when I arrived, there too was a tight circle, but one chair was left empty for me. What a warm and soothing sight….like balm to my aching heart.

Then, at another fellowship gathering, Jella led this wonderful hymn:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to
Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there
will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship
will be our sweet portion there.

Words: Joseph Scriven (1857)

Tears poured down my face as the words reached into my heart. What a friend I have in Jesus!
All this time I had misplaced my security and hope in earthly friends…they were the first people I turned to, not Jesus. In addition to “intelligence”, “friends” became another idol that God smashed. My friends failed me because they were never meant to support me in the way that only Jesus can. I truly was wrong to look to them when I should’ve been looking to Jesus. Only He could bear my burdens. Only He can save and provide security that my heart longed for.

These lyrics were taped to my school binder during the rest of my time at university. Every day I practiced taking all thoughts and burdens to the only Friend who will never fail me. What a Friend I have in Jesus. Friend Forever.

I’ll share my fruit roll-up…

(Image not mine)

…if you wanna be my friend.

Remember when it was that easy to make friends? We were six and didn’t know much about mutual benefits or socioeconomic circles or networking. We just saw someone who could be a friend, asked if they’d like to be friends, sealed the deal with a treasured snack or toy and then did what friends do. Share food. Share spoils. Share adventure. Share stories. You got into fights. You made up. You stood up for each other. It was a simple commitment to just do what friends do for each other. That’s it.

Whatever happened to friendships like that?

They Talking ’bout Me??

(Image not mine)

Have you ever read someone’s blog post/tweet/FB status/comment/etc and thought “Are they talking about me??

Mrs PR brought up an interesting thought on this topic. While the person who posted usually isn’t talking about you, there IS some content in there that reveals something about yourself….maybe some quality that you don’t want to be associated with. Or some trait that you’re embarassed about. Something. And it gets your defenses up.

This totally happens to me. I might read a friend’s tweet that says “Some people need to mind their own business” and then start thinking…”Was that directed at me? Should I have not asked about ____?? I thought we were good friends???” Anyone relate?

Looking back at these thoughts, I see that it actually tells me a number of things about myself.

  1. Maybe I am a little nosey sometimes.
  2. Maybe I shouldn’t try to find out about what’s going on in someone’s life. If they want to share, they will share.
  3. Maybe I’m insecure about friendships or insecure about whether the friendship is as deep as I thought it was.
  4. Maybe I’m insecure about myself, about who I am and how I’m perceived.
  5. Maybe I think a little too highly of myself that others would bother to be writing about me at all.

My guess is that 98% of the time, the post/tweet/etc is not about me….but it revealed things about myself that could make me a better person if I changed. I need to be humble and honest enough to look at why I felt defensive. By admitting the shortcomings to myself, I can start the process of changing some of those negative traits and qualities. Extend grace and benefit of the doubt to believe the post/tweet/etc wasn’t directed at you. And move on.