Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Grief Mentors

I was standing in the grief aisle at the bookstore the other day, reading books about the five stages of grief, books that refute the theory of the five stages of grief, and books about losing a spouse, a parent, a sibling, and a child. Lots of stuff written on grief and loss. It was all very interesting, and basically, I learned that when someone you love dies, you're sad. And the books said that being sad is normal, so I was relieved to know that I'm normal. In that way, books have been helpful.

What has been even more helpful are lessons from my friends who've lost children. I call these friends Grief Mentors. Interestingly, some of the lessons these Grief Mentors taught me were from years ago--long before Annie died. Most of them probably didn't realize at the time that they were teachers, but their lessons have stuck with me, and I'm now walking in the footprints they've left behind.

I remember sitting next to a friend at the funeral of an elderly man. During the service there was a responsive reading of Psalm 23, and as we recited the psalm, I overheard her whisper:
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, 
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." 
I found myself straining to hear her quiet voice, so I lowered mine to listen to hers. Her baby had just died of SIDS not long before, and as I sat there in the pew next to her, it occurred to me that she knew by heartbreaking experience what walking through the valley of the shadow of death really meant.
To me, it was an evidence of her trust in God that she could say those verses, while the pain of her loss was so raw. And here, so many years later, I can still hear her soft whisper: "thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

It reminds me of that verse I posted from a couple of days ago--how when God's people "walk through the Valley of Weeping, it becomes a place of refreshing springs." Their faith in the face of loss refreshes those who follow in their footsteps.



Gretchen said...

"Most of them probably didn't realize at the time that they were teachers, but their lessons have stuck with me, and I'm now walking in the footprints they've left behind."

Beautifully written, Jean. And, as with your teachers, I'm sure you have no idea of the displacement (the ripples)from your pebble in the pond. Whether in grief or in other parts of life, you leave many footprints for the rest of us.

To God be the glory.

Only a God who had known the suffering of loss would be as comforting as ours is. All this talk of footprints reminds me of the famous poem. May He carry you now. Xxxooo

Marilyn said...

...what Gretchen said.....

Anonymous said...


Sue Powell

Jean said...

Thanks, guys--and like you said, Gretchen, to God be the glory. He can relate--a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief...and comforts us through the comfort others have received...perfect in all His ways.

Susan said...

I, too, have spent a lot of time in the grief section of bookstores in my life. I also became very acquainted with Barnes & Noble's website. I could find all sorts of stuff from a Christian perspective there.

After my mom passed, I swear UPS was at my door once a week delivering a book (or two) that I hoped would erase the pain. Some did help, somewhat. The book that affected my the most was by C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed. He wrote it, not intending to publish it, after the death of his wife, Joy. I encourage you to read it if you haven't already.


Jean said...

Susan--I have come across a lot of quotes from that book on internet sites about grief...but I haven't read it yet. I'll do that.