JimWes Thinks

December 1, 2018

Supporting a Grief Stricken Friend

Filed under: Love — jimwes @ 6:08 pm

Today a friend posted a video on Facebook that brought back a very old memory of one of the most troubling episodes of my entire life. Through it I learned one of life’s most important lessons.

It occurred in the early 1970’s when I was working in Peru. It was the most uncomfortable day of my life in many ways. As background my father was a very prominent Baptist minister in Atlanta, Georgia. He had many God-given talents, but the greatest of all, that I saw demonstrated many times as I accompanied him while a boy, was the ability to share grief and comfort those of his church and community in their times of utmost grief.  His comforting presence and words during times of sickness, difficult times and death made him extremely beloved to all who knew him.  Folks he comforted at such times became his everlasting friends and admirers.

Unfortunately for me, among the very many talents of my father that I did not inherit or possess was that ability to comfort others. It seemed to me that I was almost the opposite of my beloved father in that respect. I was embarrassed, tongue-tied, frustrated, and practically speechless at any time I was confronted with the grief of a friend, and especially where there had been loss of life. I tried to avoid contact in such cases, skipped funerals I should have attended, and if I had to speak garbled some pitiful (at least to me) words of sympathy.

Finally in Peru when I was about half my present age I confronted the greatest challenge I could have imagined. A very close friend telephoned me at six o’clock one morning to tell me that his expectant wife had died while giving birth to their first child. The baby had survived and her mother was with him caring for it.  I have no memory of how I replied to him but was horribly embarrassed that I had not found words I believed could help.

I got dressed and went to work but on the way my conscience was tortured by my own grief for my friend. At the office I went straight to the executive, who was the Comptroller General of Peru, and told him the situation asking for the day off. He readily agreed and I drove to my friend’s home to find him.

Again I have no memory of what I may have said to him or his mother-in-law but I knew it was pitifully inadequate. He told me that he had much to do that day including getting the death certificate and many other papers, arranging the funeral (in Latin American countries burial is almost immediate after death), and paying hospital bills, etc.  In practically my only lucid moment I said “I’ll go with you.”

Though I offered mine, he insisted upon driving his own car so I sat at his side throughout the full day. I was totally speechless. I tried to say something comforting but simply could not get anything out of my own mouth. I waited in the car while he ran many errands and handled all his urgent tasks. While he was driving he did all the talking. He told me the story of his love, marriage and hopes, including many personal feelings about his own upbringing, his family and his experiences. I was relieved that he became so loquacious because I was basically stricken dumb by the shame of not having anything comforting to say.

Finally we parted at the end of the day and I shamefully went home to confess that I had been a complete failure in helping my friend in his time of grief.

The next day at the funeral I could not believe the overwhelming words of thankfulness that my friend expressed to me. He said “You were with me all the time. You listened to me. You comforted me more than I can say.”  Again I was speechless. And for the rest of his life whenever we met he profusely thanked me for comforting him. I had done absolutely nothing but listen all day long. Amazingly to me, that evidently was the thing he needed most on the day of his greatest grief.

So I learned a great lesson of life:

In times of severe grief a person needs the quiet support of a listening friend much more than any words that can be expressed.

That is why this video that I saw today reminded me to express my thankfulness to the Lord for helping me be just a tiny little bit like my father.  And that is why I want to share this video with you:  https://youtu.be/zW0-aT7B1XM

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: