09 Feb Ways to Support Hurting Families
Just as the sun is coming out over the Harbor—after months of rain—so the Son is shining on my little family, after a long season of pain. I won’t lie to ya; it feels good!
Now that I can think more clearly, my heart is especially grateful for all the prayer, cards, meals, and encouraging emails LCS families sent our way. As I do so, I cannot help but hearken back to a far darker season in my little brood’s history—months in pediatric ICU bleeding into years of terrifying oncology visits to Children’s Hospital.
When Jill and I first departed Children’s, our baby boy gurgled blood-tinged spit out the trach hole in his neck. His feeding tube often popped open, pouring his stomach’s warm contents over our legs. We were broken. But God sent saints—real, honest-to-goodness Christ-followers—to ease our burdens.
After a year of watching them be “Christ in skin” to us, I wrote the following. Perhaps it will help us as we seek to bless others:
“Dear Friends and Family,
God has used people to bless us. Abundantly. On occasion, Jill and I are asked, ‘How can I support someone who is going through a traumatic event?’
Here is a brief description of the many blessings we have received. Perhaps God will lay it on your heart to pass them along to someone else.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Do you know the burden bearers well? Ask if it is okay to visit. Go. Hug ‘em while they weep. Hold their hand. Don’t feel like you ‘need’ to say anything at all; merely compassionately stating ‘I don’t know what to say’ or ‘I’m so sorry’ is touching and meaningful.
Sit quietly near them. Tell them that it won’t hurt your feelings if they tell you that they need to rest.
Don’t know ‘em well? It’s probably okay to go by, but you may want to cut the visit a bit short so that they don’t feel a need to entertain you. Consider just dropping something off or sending it. Have a Bible verse or encouraging thought? Print it. Mail it. Email it. Do it.
Recall a story that you’d like to share about someone who went through similar circumstances, and then died because of it? Do not share that story. Please.
Referring to their loved one with clichés such as, ‘They will be in a better place’ might be true, but will probably not provide the comfort you intend. As my pastor says, the people going through the trial already know that Heaven will be a better place… their current hope has been snapped by the possibility of all the years here on earth that they will be without their precious loved one… this thought sickens them with sadness.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Go mow their lawn. Pick up a meal at their favorite restaurant. Make a comforting, healthy dinner and bring it by their home (or even the hospital).
Get them something that represents hope. Those two, die-cast cars someone got Michael mean just as much to me as the largest financial gift we received.
If you’re actively seeking God, do the thing that He keeps nudging your heart about. Saying ‘Call me if you need anything’ really isn’t that helpful. Though you may be sincere, the reality is that people are probably not going to call because they aren’t sure you truly mean it, don’t want to inconvenience you, and, for guys, don’t want to appear weak.
Pray for their family.
Bring some clothes by– somebody gave Jill some new jammies she could wear at the hospital… bliss! Help baby-sit. Fix something at their house. Run errands for them. They’ll probably say ‘no’ but gently remind them that, as my buddy Matt Sirotzki did, that you ‘…are literally chomping at the bit to help.’
Sit out in the hospital’s lobby and pray. Sit outside their loved one’s room and pray.
Bring or send some toys for the other kids. Buy a worship CD or devotional. Are they talking, or have you heard, about a need? Can you fill it? Do.
Their marriage, the hurting extended family, and for–huge one here– protection from spiritual attack; the evil one hits hardest when we are weakest. Get them on your prayer chain. Fast for them. Ask everyone who will pray, to pray. Remind those individuals to keep praying.
Send ‘em cards or give ‘em a call. And don’t take offense if you don’t get a return phone call– though they love you, it might very well feel like too much effort when they’re so, so tired.
Are they in a bad mood? Sad? Angry? Just listen. Please do not expect them to be their best selves, or even close to their best selves. And don’t feel like you need to force them to be happy… they probably like chocolate cake but they don’t want it shoved down their throat.
Be present with them, weep with them, and share their burden (it feels far too heavy for them).
Medical personnel to be at their very best. Pray that your hurting friend or family members would grow closer to God during this time. Pray that the spiritual nearness would continue when the season of pain is over.
Are you a very close friend or healthy family member? Offer to sit with their loved one so that they can go out to eat, or exercise, or collapse and nap. Don’t use the hospital room’s bathroom. Consider staying overnight with their loved one so that they might sleep.
Check-in to let them know that you are still praying… that they are not forgotten. That you love them and you deeply hurt for them.
Give them a gift certificate or gift-card (restaurant, coffee place, clothing store) for a place near the hospital. Bring them a small CD player that they can play praise music in the hospital room.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
And let them know that you’re praying… if they never hear from you, they might just think that you have forgotten about them.
Ask God to let you know what to say or do. Listen. Do it. They are scared, weary, and battling despair. And they need you to be ‘Jesus in skin’ to them.
“‘For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes; naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you anything to drink? Or a stranger, and help you? Or naked, and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And I, the King, will tell them, ‘When you did it to these my brothers, you were doing it to me!’”
Matthew 25:35-40 (TLB)