Friday Counseling Issues: Grieving a Child

My blogging friend Kathleen Duncan gave me a wonderful list of ideas  this morning for future blog posts. Here’s her first one:

What counsel would you give to parents who just lost a child to illness or accident? What actions would you advise and what words would you not say?

I have never had to walk through this particular valley, so I’m not going to tell you that I understand.

I’m not going to tell you, “Your child is in a better place.”

I’m not going to tell you, “You’ll have other children.”

I’m not going to tell you, “Time heals all wounds.”

I’m going to do my very best to avoid all the cliches that have no meaning whatsoever when you are reeling from the loss of the most precious  gift, the child made by the love between you and your grieving spouse.

I’m not going to ask how the mom is doing, but neglect to console the dad.

I’m not going to quote Romans 8:28 to you, even though I believe it is true.

I don’t think there is any advice that a grieving parent–and let’s not forget the grieving grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins–is able to hear early in the experience of such a dreadful loss.

So I’m going to keep all my wisdom to myself, and here’s what I will do:

I’m going to cry with the mourners.

I’m going to open my arms to them and hug them tight while they sob.

I’m going to tell them how deeply sorry I am for their loss.

I’m going to tell them, if I knew the child, that I will miss that child very much.

If I didn’t know the child (this happens when I’m counseling grieving parents) I will still tell them that I wish I had known their child.

I’m going to encourage them to tell the story of what happened, over and over again, as often as they need to repeat it.

I’m going to reassure them that God has not forsaken them. I will continue to do so as long as they are still feeling that God has deserted them.

Eventually, I will be able to tell them that grieving is a long and painful process; that they are not sinning or lacking in faith when they grieve so deeply; that they must allow themselves to grieve and not try to stuff it all down inside.

I’m going to tell them that when when well-meaning but ignorant folks say hurtful things, they are not required to smile and say thank you.

They are going to feel some degree of guilt, whether or not there was a single thing they could have done to prevent their loss.  I’m going to remind them that they are not to blame.  A zillion times, if that’s what it takes.

I’m going to look at their pictures, listen to their stories about how bright beautiful and amazing their child was.  I’m going to nod and smile and allow my own tears to fall because I’m a mother, too, and we all think our own kids are the brightest and the best.

When the time is right and they are beginning to be able to hear, I will share all the scriptures I know about peace and comfort and the great love and compassion of God.

I will not be impatient when they return to some stage of grief that they have already been through.

I will tell them that what they are experiencing is normal. Normal is a word I use a lot when I’m counseling grief-stricken people.

I will try to remember that grief-stricken is just as awful as it sounds.  Beaten down, overwhelmed, knocked senseless with grief. They don’t need to be told to be strong for their other children. They don’t need to be told to be strong for anyone. They need people to be strong for them.

I will not criticize them for the depression they may experience. It is not a sin for a believer to experience depression.

No, it is NOT!  You will do more harm than you can imagine if you tell a grieving parent that depression is just a sin problem. Please just be quiet if that’s all you can think of to say. And I pray it never happens to you, because you will not survive it.

The loss of a child is, in my opinion and observation, the hardest loss to endure. It is out of sequence. A child is not supposed to die before its parents do. This goes for miscarriages too, by the way.  It’s the loss of a child, and the parents will need to grieve.

Don’t get in their way.

Take, Eat. . . .Drink ye all of it. . . .

Matthew 26:26-27. “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it  to them, saying, Drink ye all of it: For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

This scene is the beginning of the institution of what we refer to as Communion, or the Lord’s Supper.  We have already discussed the meaning of the Passover feast.  Now, the true passover Lamb is about to be slain. He instituted another feast, a wonderful memorial of His work on the cross. He called it the “new covenant,” or “new testament.” The Lord’s Supper embodies the fundamental truth of Christianity, in the same way that the Passover represented the fundamental truth of Judaism. The Lord’s Supper is a simple meal to remember what He did at Calvary; how His body was broken and His blood was shed for the remission of sin. In this new testament, His blood is shed for all; in the Judaic custom, the blood of the paschal lamb was shed only for the Jews.  This is a new covenant indeed, including all who will come to Him for cleansing and forgiveness.

In the book of Luke, we can read the words that make it clear that Jesus intended the observation  of the Lord’s Supper to be a memorial, not a way of salvation or of forgiveness.  As we take the bread and the wine, we are to think deeply on His sacrifice in our behalf and remember Him; to be thankful, to be humbled by His great love  (Luke 22:19).

Woe unto that Man. . . .

Matthew 26:24-25. “The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.”

John 13:27 makes it clear that Satan had entered into Judas, and was controlling his mind and his heart.  Judas had already opened himself to Satan’s control with his greed; he had allowed his greed to send him to bargain with the priests to identify Jesus for them for the price of a slave. Judas was never a true disciple, but a man who was looking out for his own interests. When it seemed that Jesus may be the One they all hoped would destroy Rome and establish His kingdom on earth, Judas was willing to follow Him.

It was clear, now, however, that Jesus was going to fulfill His own words; He was going to die, and there would be no kingdom. No riches, no glory, no prominent place, no power.

No loyalty, no commitment, no understanding of the One he was about to sell out.

Truly, it would have been better for him if he had never been born.

Lord, is it I?

Matthew 26:22-23. “And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say nto Him, Lord, is it I? And He answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.”

Eleven of the disciples felt great sorrow. One, perhaps, also felt sorrow. His sorrow, however, was tempered by greed and the guilty knowledge of what he had already done.

I wonder if Judas, too, asked Jesus, “Lord, is it I?”  Did he look into the eyes of the Son of God and know that Jesus already knew?  Did he see judgment in those eyes? Was he afraid?  Did he wish he could give the  blood money back to the men who had given it to him?  Did he realize he was selling Jesus for the mere price of a purchased slave?  Did any of this go through his mind?

We’ll see in verse 25 that Judas did indeed ask that question, but it seems he waited until everyone else had asked. It would seem that Jesus was giving Judas a last opportunity to repent, to confess what he had bargained to do, and to repent. Judas, however, remained silent. We can read in John 13 that Judas then accepted from the hands of the Lord a piece of bread dipped into the wine.

I don’t know.  I wasn’t there, and it is not recorded; but I can imagine that Judas’ eyes never left Jesus’ eyes as he put the sop into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. What I can’t imagine is what he must have been thinking.

Betrayal

Matthew 26:20-21. “Now when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, He said, Verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.”

I can imagine that in the first few seconds after Jesus made this startling statement, there was a thick and uneasy silence.

Betray Him?  What?  How could that be?  Who among these dedicated men who had followed Him for three  years would even think of such a thing? No, it wasn’t possible!

But they had learned that Jesus never spoke an unneccesary  or false word, and their astonishment turned to great sorrow. Who?  Who was the one who could not be trusted?  Who among them would do such an evil thing?

And I can imagine them lying their, reclining on the couches that were customary, looking a Jesus and trying not to look at each other.  Sideways glances, downcast eyes, perhaps angry eyes, perhaps fearful eyes.

One pair of eyes, though, must have glanced furtively at each of the other disciples, already knowing that the deed was in play, and wondering what his consequences would be.

Snow

I just wrote this for my writing blog, decided to go ahead and post it here as well. Happy snow day to all my PA friends 🙂

Just Writing!

So.  I’m tired of waiting for the dilatory daily prompt. Not checking again today.

Anyway, we got a beautiful prompt overnight. 

I took this with my iPhone, from inside our dining room.  It looks out on our back yard. We got about six inches, and the temperature right now is 33 degrees.  Not bad, really.

There are myriads of paeans written to the beauty of the snow.  There are songs and poems and photographic essays, and I can’t (won’t) try to improve on any of them.  There are also lots of things written about the horrors of the snow, the unrelenting cold, the dangers.  Both are true. And both ideas have set my mind to work this morning.

I work in mental health.  I’m a private practice, independent contractor therapist.  I work three days each week, and at my ripe old age, that’s plenty.  I spend those days listening to…

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Aging: Loneliness (Friday Counseling Issues)

Growing old can sometimes be a very lonely process. Not everyone has a large family, or even a small one, to care for the aging generation of grandparents and great-grandparents. Often, the task of caring for an elder lands on just one person’s shoulders, and it is a heavy responsibility. It can involve becoming the Power of Attorney for the elder; being responsible for all his financial obligations, taxes, bills, health care, and so on. Unfortunately, this responsibility can often coincide with the age at which the caregiver’s children are in their teens or early 20’s and still needing some parental help and guidance.

It isn’t always easy to find answers.  I have a couple of clients right now who are in their middle to late sixties, and are caring for mothers in their late 80’s. The daughters have their own physical difficulties, and find it very difficult to provide the physical care their mothers need. Neither of the daughters wants to put her mother in a facility, and I understand that,  But sometimes, there really isn’t any other choice.

Loneliness is harder for some than for others.  People who have always had lots of friends or family around them are deeply hurt when, as time passes, those people become absorbed in their own affairs and no longer have much time to spend with the elder.  Visits can be too short, too infrequent to satisfy the need of the elder to have some sense of still being connected to others.

One of the advantages of an assisted living facility or a good nursing home is that there is opportunity for socializing with others. I know of people who are so glad they moved from their house or apartment into such a facility, because now they have found new friends and are no longer so isolated.

Many churches have shut-in visitation programs. They  often do an outstanding job of staying in touch with elders who are unable to get out and who depend on people coming to them for social calls.

The fact is, however, that when most of the friends and family members of the elder’s generation have died, she can feel very lonely in a room full of people.  All those she truly felt connected with have gone on, and she feels no one knows her any more.

I wish I had an easy answer for such a situation. I don’t.

I will say that if you know of a situation in  your family, your church, your neighborhood, in which an older person who can’t get out much spends many days alone, you may be the one who can mobilize others in your family or organization to spend some time with that person.  It is too easy for us to be so busy doing our own lives that we forget about those left alone with no one to talk with for too many days at a time.

We need to be aware, and we need to take care. None of us are getting any younger.

I think this will be the final post for now on the topic of aging.  Not sure where I’ll go next,  Should be interesting to see what comes to mind between now and next Friday 🙂