How Am I Doing? Fine, but Not Really
You know how it goes. You’re going through a difficult time in your life, and some well-meaning person asks you, “How are you doing?” I got this question a lot as a newly bereaved parent thirteen years ago. I usually felt like responding, “I feel like (fill in the blank). My son just died.” Instead, I would give some polite kind of response.
These kind people wanted to be supportive. They didn’t really know what to say. What do you say to a newly bereaved parent? Some things people told me included: “God must have needed another angel,” “Our children don’t really belong to us; God just loans them to us for a while,” and “That’s the worst thing that could ever happen to a person!” I also was told quite a few times, “You’re a member of the club no one wants to belong to.”
My personal least favorite was the following: “I hugged my sixteen-year-old son extra tightly today.” That was especially painful for me to hear because hugging my own son was the one thing I wanted to do but could never do again on this earth. Most likely, these people were trying to tell me that my grief and loss caused them to appreciate their children more. I’m glad it did, but that's too much information for a grieving parent to hear.
A good friend of mine who is also a bereaved parent had someone tell her, “I know how you feel; my bunny rabbit just died.” That actually happened. It’s hard not to laugh about it in a way. Laughing can help ease the pain, at least for an all-too-brief moment.
Part of the problem is that people aren't sure what to do when someone they care about is going through a life crisis. We want to fix the problem, but some things just can’t be fixed in this life. I realized—as other bereaved parents I know do as well—that people were trying their best to comfort me, and I greatly appreciated their efforts. I needed help, and lots of it, but even I wasn’t sure at the time what that help looked like in practical terms.
It is every person’s responsibility—and privilege—as an image bearer of God to care for people who are hurting. There are many kind things you can do to support people who are not fine—even if they say that they are. Check out the following link for ten ways: 10 Practical Ways to Help People Who Are Hurting.
A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss by Jerry L. Sittser
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