Grief…how long?

“She seems very quiet and withdrawn, she hasn’t been sleeping well and she has had some bad dreams…is this normal?”

The little girl in question was about 7 years old and she was coming to terms with the fact that her father had died about a month ago after a fairly long battle with illness. The uncle and grandparents I was talking too were naturally concerned and they were asking the question that I find so many people need to ask.

A significant part of my job entails working with people who are facing grief and loss – it is not a part of the job to ‘enjoy’ but it is an important and special place where I am given the privilege to walk alongside people at some of their darkest moments.   The thing about grief is that we don’t really want to know too much about it, we don’t want to experience it and, if we could, we would chose to avoid it for the whole of our lives. However, the reality is that we all will face grief and loss at some time and it is good to be able to recognise it and help those who are facing it.

There is no simple or concise answer to the questions “How do you grieve?” or “How long does grief take?” Everyone is on their own journey and these questions will be influenced by your experience, your culture, the depth of relationship and any ‘complicating’ factors that may be present. One person will grieve one way and another totally differently.

For the inexperienced, grief looks strange, confronting and even a bit scary…people respond in unexpected ways and it can be unsettling. But the truth is that there is a range of responses that fall within the boundaries of what could be called “Normal Grief”. It is not a series of ‘stages’ to move through but a convoluted and twisted pathway which includes complex emotions and re-organisation of our lives. The deeper we love the deeper we grieve.

Quiet support, gentle understanding and appropriate time are the best things you can offer to assist those who are facing grief and loss. It is also helpful to point them towards someone who knows a bit about the process of grief they are traversing. The last resource I would recommend is the support and care of the Lord Jesus Himself who of course was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3

If you are grieving today, I pray that peace and comfort will surround you…

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The popped button…

I had noticed that it was coming a bit loose but I just kept forgetting to fix it and then I caught it on the edge of the table and it just ‘popped’ off. It was one of the buttons in the centre of the jacket of my uniform – right where everyone could see it. Thankfully it happened late in the day and I managed to get through unnoticed but I needed to do something because I was giving a presentation the next morning. If I had been at home it would not have been an issue but because I was away, I had to use the resources available. What was needed was needle and thread but the thread needed to be khaki in colour. Unsurprisingly, the local 7/11 does not specialize in sewing materials and haberdashery but they did have an emergency sewing kit – $4.50 for one needle, white thread and a single button large enough to fix a sofa.

Having limited options I grabbed the kit, headed back to my room, and sewed on the original button that I had thankfully retrieved – but the more I looked at myself in the mirror the more self-conscious I became…no matter from what angle I looked, all I could see was the conspicuous white thread in the centre of the button in the centre of my jacket.

The next morning I got dressed and checked the mirror once more and sure enough my eyes only fell upon the flaw – the anomaly – the item that had not been completely fixed.

All through the day at different times I found myself thinking about the button and wondering if anyone had noticed – It was such a small thing and yet it felt like something more. The fact was that no-one else noticed, or if they did, they didn’t make a comment. I possibly was worried over nothing – but let me tell you that as soon as I got home I made sure that I re-sewed the button with the right thread.

The next time I put on that jacket I stopped and was reminded of a scripture…

“Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” Luke 12:23

I thought about the things in my live that had been ‘re-sewn’ and wondered if they had been fixed completely and correctly? Maybe I just used the best available at the time and maybe there is a better, more complete solution waiting? So – How are your buttons looking?

I love the smell but I don’t like the taste…

I love the smell but I don’t like the taste…

I do not have very finicky tastes when it comes to food and drink. There are only two foods I don’t like and one drink…both foods set hard if you leave them overnight (which is probably part of my aversion) porridge and rice pudding. My distain for these has never caused me much problem because I don’t have that many morning meetings with Scottish people and rice pudding is not all that fashionable…but my dislike of the beverage in question does set me apart from the crowd.

Against all popular opinion I do not like Coffee – in fact I cannot bear the taste of it.

Interestingly although, I love the smell of coffee but no matter how many times I try, I am yet to find any method of preparation, which makes it palatable. I don’t like International Roast, Pablo, Maxwell House, Nescafe, or Moccona. Espressos, Long Blacks, Lattes and Cappuccinos do nothing for me. Piccolo Lattes, Macchiatos and even Affogatos cannot change my dislike of the underlying flavour.

I remember on my 18th Birthday my next-door-neighbour went to great lengths to bake me my birthday cake – it was a beautiful looking cake and a real labour of love but as she carried it into the room I could smell the aroma of the coffee icing from across the room which changed it from a desert to be enjoyed to one that had to be endured.

I often get asked out for ‘Coffee’ by people, sometimes they will rave about a particular coffee shop which has great coffee; I recently walked past 4 coffee shops which were described as “rubbish” to get to one in particular that was “amazing” only to disappoint the person I was with when I ordered a Hot Chocolate.

There are things in this life that attract us by their aromas but they can leave a bad taste in our mouths. Selfishness, lying and infidelity may draw us from afar but when we experience them close at hand we are left bitter and wishing we had never taken a sip. Just because something smells or looks good from the outside doesn’t mean that it is going to do you good inside.

I am not equating coffee with sin or suggesting you should give it up but I am suggesting that we shouldn’t keep trying to enjoy something that we were never made for.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!”        Psalms 119:103

Weep with those…

This week I have joined the ranks of all Australians and the rest of the world as we have watched the events surrounding the shooting down of MH17. To say that this was a senseless tragedy is the ultimate understatement and to imagine the sorrow, anger and loss of the families involved is beyond our comprehension.

As the crash scene is finally cleared, as bodies are eventually identified and returned home, we are aware of the fragility of this life that we take for granted and we are challenged to value it all the more.

Over this last week I have been exposed to a number of families in the midst of intense grief – each had experienced a loss of someone close or a challenge of significant proportions – as I spent time with them I was again made aware of some important truths…

Listening is better than speaking – there are of course, in most cases, no words that fit.

You don’t often realise how valuable someone or something is until you lose them.

There is always regret over words left unsaid.

As I came home at the end of each day after listening to the radio and the reports of the difficulty of access, the frustration of the politics and the human anguish of the families waiting for closure – I found myself wanting some simple pleasures: a slightly longer hug of my children; a quick extra trip to the coffee shop with my wife; a few phone calls to close friends; and the enjoyment of the safety and comfort of all I am surrounded by and possess.

I observe that it always the simple things that people say to me is what they miss when they suffer a loss and so it is a good opportunity for us to cherish what we have today.

Unfortunately grief and loss are a part of life but today is an opportunity for you to listen to those who need to speak, to speak those words you may be holding back, and to value all you are connected to and possess.

The Lord’s compassion and love reaches out to all who grieve and He reminds each of us to…

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”                        Romans 12:15

I hope that this week is filled with opportunities to connect with those you love and a celebration of all good things that your life contains.