One year ago this month, nine days before Christmas, our only child, Graham Scott, was taken from this world. He was twenty-four years young. If anyone can tell you about the sustaining grace of the Comforter God, we certainly can. He’s good. He grieves with us. His love and glory is worth anything we must endure.
The real hero of the story is my wife and soulmate, Sandy. I’ve sat and watched in awe, witnessing the strength and grace of God move through her these months, like a symphony of quiet confidence, peace and contentment. Most do not have a full appreciation for what she’s gone through, not just through her only child’s passing, but in a long-running melodrama that surrounded his life – before and since.
And yet, recently, in the span of one week, two people who barely know her made suggestions that she wasn’t handling the process of grieving very well.
The first, her hairdresser who only knows her in a salon chair context every few months, mis-took Sandy’s sharing about Graham in the flow of ‘just making conversation’ and informed my wife she just “needed to move on” so she could get on with the business of living. It sounds meaner than it was.
As they say, she meant well.
The second, just a few days later, was her doctor who, because of changes in our healthcare, was newly assigned as Sandy’s general practitioner of medicine.
The thing about my bride is, when those in highly influential or respected positions begin to probe her to open up about private matters, she becomes weepy. Say, when our spiritual father focuses on her with loving counsel, she’s apt to cry. Or, when my surgeons have met with her, she’s moved by their handling of me and becomes a puddle in the floor.
During her first meeting with her new doctor, whose name is pronounced “cruel” (but she is not), Sandy buckled when questions about her life probed into the soft tissue of her grief over Graham. And she wept.
Do you think you might need grief counsel?” the doctor asked kindly, but still wary and watchful.
Anything’s possible, of course. Lord knows, we’re open to whatever we must do to shed anything that holds us back from moving forward in our faith. But this…this…process has been so supernaturally kissed by grace. Grief counseling? Nope, not thinking that way, but, then again, one should never say never…
Listen, however you slice it, it’s been less than a year.
Yes, we still get sad. We weep at his grave. We miss him. Christmas Day might be a bummer.
And it might not.
We even laugh at his grave. We smile a lot as we remember ‘Graham stories’.
Isn’t this kinda, well, normal?
That’s pretty much what we’re doing. Grieving is moving on. It’s when grief is drained of hope that you start regressing, and that’s not us. No sir, not by a long shot.
To tell you how good God is in His expert handling of my Lovely, a few days after this mystifying week for her, she treated her mother to her long-time dream of visiting the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. During their visit, they were blown away by having the tour, complete with intimate stories of the Graham family, given by none other than the caregiver to Billy’s mother in the final years of her long life!
The stories of “Mother Graham’s” devoted life – her many sorrows and greater triumphs and exuberant faith throughout – stirred Sandy and she knew this was a hug from the God who saw these very things in her. And, of course, she wept!
One valuable resource Sandy reached for during the tour was a card-stock flier embossed with the title:
“What To Say To A Bereaved Parent”
I’m sure you can write to the library and request this free resource – it’s wonderful! – but let me share some of its main bullet points with you, in closing:
What NOT To Say:
I know how you feel.”
I cannot imagine how difficult this is for you.”
What NOT To Say:
Are you doing OK?” or “How are you doing?”
How are you holding up?”
Other Things NOT To Say:
You’ll feel better before you know it.”
Don’t cry.” (or, “Be strong for your family.”)
God must have needed him/her in heaven.”
At least you have other children.”
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”
Don’t let this rob you of your joy.”
[Don’t tell the person how they should feel; only respond to how they feel]
[Don’t share personal stories of how your grief compares to yours]
It goes on to suggest offering to pray for the bereaved; to talk openly about the one who has passed; share personal stories, use their name throughout (we can testify when people use Graham’s name repeatedly, it ministers to us); listen…and be comfortable with silence.
Finally, of the MANY meaningful cards and sentiments we received, Sandy was especially moved by our friend Ken’s words. He said while everyone was talking about and remembering Graham,
I don’t want to be remembering him, I want to (still) be knowing him.”
That’s how she truly felt.
And she cried.
Over To You:
What ideas can you add, as either what TO say or what NOT to say to someone who’s going through a difficult time?