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Dear Friends ~
If you live in the West Michigan area, you've heard of the local tragedy that claimed the lives of Derek Taatjes, a youth pastor, and his infant son Dylan.
Derek, age 31 and Dylan were killed in a fire in their home last evening, while his wife and two daughters were visiting family in Florida. Our whole community is in shock and mourning this painful loss.
Whereas I don't know the Taatjes family personally, I have been praying for Derek's wife and family all day. Unfortunately I remember all too well the day I received a call that my "soon-to-be" husband David, also age 31, had been unexpectedly killed in a tragic accident.
I can still vividly remember heading to the visitation, in the midst of intense grief, getting ready to stand before David's casket to greet friends and family. I asked my friend Betty, "What in the world am I going to say to everyone?"
Betty said, "Cindy, you don't have to worry. Right now everyone is wondering what they are going to say to you."
Somehow I made it through the vistation and funeral, and now, having journeyed through "the valley of grief" ~ I've learned a little bit about what is helpful to say/do in the midst of a loss.
Here are some of my ideas...
Things to Say~
* I am so sorry for your loss. (this is my all-time favorite)
* Please tell me how I can help. I want to be here for you.
* May I give you a hug?
* Please tell me what you are feeling right now ~I have never been through something like this.
*_______ was such a great________. I will really miss him/her.
*It's ok if you do not feel like talking right now. Just know that I am here to listen whenever you are ready.
Things NOT to Say~
*"I know how you feel." (This would make me want to scream, “YOU don’t know how I feel, no one knows how bad I feel!)”
*“Time heals all wounds.” (Not true, not true!)
*“You’ll be ok. God knows what He is doing” (Whereas it is true God does know what He is doing, these words are not often helpful to someone grieving a loss.)
*"Just call me if there is anything I can do." (Trust me, in the midst of grief, you can’t think straight and you have no idea what you need.)
My best advice for helping....fill the home with Kleenexes, food (although those grieving probably won't want to eat it, so simple, healthy options are best), and be available and ready for anything. Look through picture albums. Come over in the morning with hot coffee.
One friend would come over every Thursday night and watch ER with me. Her presence, listening ear and patience was invaluable. Be there.
Also, the next year following a loss is extremely painful. If you know someone who is grieving a loss, mark your calendar with their name on the major holidays, and be sure to "check in" on the first Easter, Fathers Day, Christmas, etc.. Keep them in your prayers.
Lastly, although everyone is different, my encouragement would be to not be afraid to bring up the deceased person's name. I still wanted to talk about David in the weeks and months to come, but I could sense others didn't want to "upset me". I've found many times this is the case when a death takes place.
I know this post is a little "heavy" for the weekend (sorry!) ~ but I would love to hear from you. Have your journeyed with someone through grief? Been through the grief process yourself? What was helpful/not helpful for you??
Let's learn from one another, so we might be a source of joy, comfort and hope during difficult times.
Most importantly, would you please pray for the Taatje Family? Derek and Dylan leave behind a wife/mom and two young daughters/sisters. May they sense God's comfort and peace each and every moment during the hours, days, weeks and years to come.
He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 MSG
In His Great Love,