What to say/not to say when someone dies

Nathan’s father passed away a couple of months ago, after battling an awful disease for three or four years.  They had the blessing of knowing in advance what was coming; they had the awful burden of knowing in advance what was coming.  Recently, he and I were talking about what people say when your loved one dies. I asked for his experience on the subject. This is what he wrote….

Someone just this morning expressed her sympathy for the loss of my dad. It reminded me that I still had this partial thought process typed out.  If it turns out that any of this is useful fodder for one of your articles that would be great to read.  I always appreciate your point of view. (and I even agree with it occasionally) Actually I mostly agree.  (Joe: Buttering up the web-host is always a good idea, Nathan.)

My first thoughts on this topic were based on the biblical accuracy of things that are said after someone dies.  Do people really believe what they say?  If they do, where did they get those philosophies?  I’m not suggesting there is a list of approved biblical phrases to use in this situation, only asking that we consider why folks craft and continue to
perpetuate these flawed notions.  I believe there is a danger turning faith into fairy tale for our own comfort.  At the same time it may help us to approach someone with biblical truths after we understand their line of thinking.

I added some of my thoughts along with the things people say.

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Five things for Joe

(I started this piece toward the end of October, in the 9th month of widowhood.  And finished it today.)

My sister and several friends are saying I have to do something for Joe.

Like we’re talking about a third-person here.

I replied to one, “I’m not sure what that means.  I do my job. I draw cartoons for editors, I work on my blog, I travel to cities where I preach the Gospel and sketch people, and then I come home. When I get home, I dump stuff in the washer, take things to the cleaners, buy groceries, deposit checks in the bank, and have the car washed.  Then, a week or so later, I do it all over again. It’s my life.”

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What I am learning about grief

We grieve, but not “as others who have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13).

No one volunteers to become knowledgeable about grief.  Life hands you the assignment by robbing you of someone whom you love dearly. Suddenly, you find yourself missing a major part of your existence–an arm and a leg come to mind–and trying to figure out how to go forward.

You discover this ache in you goes by the name “grief.”  Synonyms include mourning. Sorrow. Loss. Bereavement.

Without warning, you find yourself experiencing an entire new lineup of emotions–all of them devastating–about which you had heard only rumors before.

The second discovery you make is people think you ought to be able to help others deal with it. Surely, they imply, if you have come through it and lived to tell about it, you must be wise.

I’m so unwise.

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