“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards’ of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:10
“Our dad is in heaven, his gun shot himself.”
One of our tougher moments in the early days of this grief journey was in line at a store. My twin boys were just four years old. They knew their daddy was in heaven, and they knew the simplest version of what happened.
When the sweet lady in front of us complimented their behavior I barely saw it coming. She told them they should be proud and go home and tell their daddy how well they had behaved. That poor lady! She never saw it coming either, but when it did, her face went from pale white to red flushed, as she watched me nod to confirm their words. She choked back tears as she apologized for saying anything to them and then moved on rather quickly.
Early on that was the usual reaction. No one really knew what to say. There were many awkward moments when someone heard my husband was in heaven and then pressed to know how he died. There was the cashier at the grocery store, who pressed me on my pretty necklace (Scott’s wedding ring I had made into a necklace). And then couldn’t get me out of there fast enough. The waitress at the restaurant. The dry cleaner cashier.
Once the word suicide is dropped, the tough awkward moments fly and many well meaning people want to flee!
The stigma of and circumstances surrounding suicide are hard enough for those intimately involved, for a stranger they are nearly impossible.
Yet, there were many who stood by us and were there for us from the very beginning. Our families hunkered together the day Scott got heaven, as my church family formed a barrier outside of my house to keep strangers and the media out (Scott’s death was very public and made national news). The local businesses that showed up with tray after tray of food. (Our families have lived in the same small town for generations.) The many, some strangers even, who came to show their love towards us, and with compassionate hearts poured out their gifts of wisdom and comfort.
It’s funny how I realize now that before all this I would’ve been the judgmental fleeing kind. I was “the lady at the store”. I had my own critical thoughts and opinions on death, especially on suicide, and even grief.
I knew nothing!
Now, I want to say to the lady at that store and the cashier at the grocery store and the many others, “Don’t be afraid to go there.” Compassion, sympathy and empathy can be so powerful to a hurting person.
And I want to say to the many others, “Thank you!” Thank you for walking this unashamedly with us. Thank you for your kindness, care and concern. Thank you for extending grace and showing us Scott’s life was much more than that one moment.
I want to say to each of you, be ready and willing to go there with others. You’ve got deep places now. You get this! Be ready to stand with the next grieving person. It’s going to come. We know that well. It’s a gift to love others from your pain to theirs.
This grief walk is not wasted. Prepare yourself well, so you aren’t the lady in line with me. Take every opportunity to shine Christ and bless others with the gifts God has now given you.
Father God, thank you for giving me the gifts I have received through this journey. Help me to see hurt and pain in others and shine You to them as I take the time to care. Help me to never brush off a hurting person, or waste the lessons You’ve given me. Prepare to minister to others from the deeper places You have given me. In Your Matchless Name, Amen.
Erika Graham is Vice President, and an author and speaker for aNew Season/A Widow’s Might Ministries. She resides in New Jersey with her daughter, twin boys, and her little fluffy puppy. She loves summers at the beach and all things chocolate. She lost her husband to suicide in June 2010. Erika has been called to share the victory she’s experiencing through Christ Jesus over the life God has ordained for her.
If you are interested in having Erika or any of our writing team speak, please contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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