Being PRESENT For A Grieving Friend

During my sabbatical, I have invited Carolyn Ritson, who leads our grief support group and is a regular part of HCC, to write this week’s HCC Blog.

Most of us are familiar with the commandment :
      Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14)

This verse is played out in the story of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’s response when asked who our neighbor is. He tells the story of a man who was attacked and left to die by robbers. A priest and a Levite passed him by.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine. Then he put him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out 2 denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”(Luke 10:30-35)

In this story, Jesus is telling us that many avoided the hurting man for religious and tribal reasons. Yet, the Samaritan looked beyond and saw the man’s need and cared for him exceptionally.

When friends and family are grieving the death of a loved one, we often feel uncomfortable. We avoid them because we don’t know what to say or do, are afraid we will upset them, or maybe are fearful of our own grief. The Good Samaritan wasn’t required to help and likely was not qualified other than his compassion and generosity. We can do much for the bereaved with our presence, kind words, and physical assistance (cleaning, getting groceries, running errands…).

There are no magic words that will change the situation, but our presence can make a difference. It alone can communicate our compassion. I usually listen a lot and say little. I listen for where my neighbor is that day. Maybe she is angry at someone or even God. Perhaps she feels guilty for some reason or is even speaking her faith and quoting God’s will and ability to heal all. I respond according to where she is that day, not trying to change her thinking and supporting her process. And I know that she may be in a different place the next time we meet, perhaps better or more deeply grieving. We can be there. Present.

Grief takes time, often a long time. So our presence for weeks, months, even years is one of the greatest ways we can love our neighbor.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time. (Proverbs 17:17)

Thank you Carolyn!