When no words are necessary
I am in the middle of grief. I am not down or overly sad. I’m am not physically tired but my brain cannot handle anymore placated niceties. Most days I do not want to hear any voices that I must respond to. Ah! Grief. We all go through it sooner or later and we are all different in how we go through it. One way is not better than the other unless you aim to harm yourself or someone else. Grief just may change you all together. However, I am not so much as addressing those who mourn but rather those who will sit in the ashes or those who simply want to be of service to the mourner(s). There are some things that helped me and perhaps they will spur some ideas for you to help someone else experiencing grief.
1. Thank you cards and stamps. I had a few of these on hand but sooner or later i want to express my gratitude. The are no written rules on this. My mom sent her cards out 5 days after the funeral. Mine will go out about 3 weeks afterwards. The gift is having them available for whenever. You can even offer to help with sentiments, addressing and stamping.
2. Remembrance Favors. These are things used in remembrance of the deceased love one. I will be ordering a memorial candle and gifting one to my sister and brother. I have ordered remembrance ribbons to place in my thank you cards. Necessary? No. Nice gesture? Of course. Having a remembrance item delivered to the grieving -after several (few)weeks is best in my opinion. Initially everyone shows up and within 5 days, the mourner will be all alone. This is a good and honoring way to circle back and say hey, I’m thinking about!
I own a gift box business. Since we have been up and running, the number 1 requested gift box is the pre-curated and customed-made grief box. Order one (hopefully from us) and have it delivered with a message from you. Many offer free shipping!
3. Household goods. Friends, relatives (near and far), perhaps coworkers and church family will converge at once. Household staples will need to be replenished. Fill a basket with tissue, paper towels or napkins, dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent etc … ask if you can put it away for them. This will also depend on how well they know you.
4. Lend a hand. Sweep, mop, serve guests, keep the bathroom stocked with tissue. Perhaps use some wipes and wipe door handles and the bathroom (thanks COVID). Wash dishes. Monitor the food; does something need to be refrigerated? Drinks need to be replenished? Just do it. Being bombarded with questions is draining during this time.
5. Plant care. There will be lots of flowers and plants. Refresh flowers, change the water if necessary. Water the plants and buy some of those clear plastic holders for plants so that the moisture will not ruin the furniture. After a few weeks, drop off some potting soil and pots. If you have a green thumb, offer to repot the plant. We have a nice water spot on the piano from one of the plants.
6. Meals. Everyone will drop off some food in the beginning. When the dust settles, offer to take them to lunch, a picnic, or drop and run. If there are children, offer to bake cookies with them. Go for a walk.
7. My final thing is to just sit and listen. If I could have laid my head in my BFF’s lap and just say what was in my heart (good, bad,ugly) and then got up and went to a Mexican food restaurant that would have been the best!!
Crowds energize some people but others find them draining. Watch for signs of distress. And do not make them repeat the same story over and over again by asking those lurking questions: how you doing? What happened? What are you going to do? When will you start to go through his/her things? If you know them well then it may be best to wait until the two of you are alone to ask those imposes questions.
These are just things I observed personally. What would you add or take away?
Late November I moved to the Mississippi Delta to help care for my father who was in the late stage of vascular dementia. Dad courageously fought this battle until Sunday February 6. His celebration of Life service was held February 12. And just like that, the journey was completed.
I am still in the Mississippi Delta accompanying my mother who is aging gracefully. Will she move back to Virginia where all three of her children live? Only God knows. Today, we nap, we enjoy the rain fall, we begin to move forward without our patriarch, even though we are not quite sure what that looks like.
My mother is of boomer generation and I am a Gen X. We have total different views on getting thank you cards out. Let me assure you that the cards have been prepared, stamped and mailed. My cards on the other hand are still being delivered to me so that I may address, stamp and send. I need more time to think, reflect and rest. I just march to the beat of my own drum. I do not think that she is wrong and I don’t think that I am wrong. The gift comes in the honoring, compromising and being content. He was my dad but her husband. It was important to her to get them done as soon as possible. It was my duty to honor her and serve her.
The best thing to do when comforting others is to sit in the grief, in the hard stuff with them and live moment by moment. Easier said than done, right? My moment by moment means watching a morning of game shows and judge shows. (pssst …. I hate game shows, judge shows and tv in general 😂) but I love my mother and I’m willing to serve and that may just mean several more months of doing just that because love trumps all and I choose love.
It is easy to think that we humble ourselves before God, but our humility towards OTHERS is the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real.
~Andrew Murray, The journey towards holiness .
After my initial post regarding my return to the Mississippi Delta to help care for Dad, came many inquiries and questions. One basic question to the many direct responses was regarding God and how does this (dementia) fit his good plan. And how is it caring for someone who will no longer know you. Well friends, I am a person of faith, I am a believer and can only answer from that point.
Dementia is a hard thing to witness and since I am called to be a caregiver, he is providing me with everything I need daily and moment by moment; I lean into Him a little harder each day. Some days are easier than others; and most days I wonder what is God’s plan; how is He or will He use this for Glory and our good. Dementia was not apart of God’s original plan for us. Creation was good, healthy, filled with love. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were not content with this plan and they became disobedient. They sinned and it was through this very act that mankind began to experience strife. Love was still here but now so was hate. Life was still here but now so was death. Good was still hear but now so was evil. Good health was still here but now so was disease and that includes vascular dementia. And though sin entered in, God’s imagine was unchanged. We all share in this image and that includes dementias. However, sin did damage our ability to reflect God’s image. John Dunlop provided “ when sin entered the world, it compromised our ability to enjoy our lives on earth. This is seen in countless ways, but one of them is dementia and the way it wrecks havoc in the lives of it sufferers and those who love and care for them“ (John Dunlop, Finding Grace in the face of Dementia).
Dad’s brain does not function properly but he is not a half or less than a person. He is an image bearer of our God and deserves to be treated as such; with love, dignity and respect. It is my prayer that I serve well.
I have returned to the Mississippi Delta. My dad’s dementia has progressed and he is now bedridden. Mom is aging gracefully, yet she can no longer provide dad with the same level of care as before. I have been called to serve.
“Caregiving is a distinct call from God. It is not something we randomly fall into. Unfortunately, it may seem like this responsibility is foisted upon us, but that is not true. We often think of God‘s calling as something that comes to us through a great, supernatural experience, but often the call comes to us by the circumstances he puts in our path. If the opportunity for caregiving is presented, and you seem to be the logical person to serve, it is often reasonable to conclude it is God‘s calling for you. Once we see caregiving as a calling, it is easier to accept it as our priority and not feel guilty about ignoring other pursuits” (John Dunlop, Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia).
As I count it a privilege and honor to serve, I can’t help but look back over the pictures and memories and see how blessed and loved beyond measure I really am. The man who held my hand and guided me around as a child, I now hold his hand as he looks to me. I am proud to serve. I never realized how much my hands resembles his. In this subtle moment I am reminded that life really isn’t about me but about God and He has a purpose in all things and that includes vascular dementia.
He is our creator, and we are daily sustained by Him, and its (dementia) ultimate purpose will be fulfilled in His being glorified.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36)