Thursday, December 11, 2008

on loving the hurting...

In response to the request of Wynia on the previous post, here are a few things I learned from my mother's fight with cancer:

It's no secret that loving someone who is going through a difficult time can be difficult in and of itself. People are all different, so such a book would be really difficult to write. However, a few of the jewels that I have held onto are:

1. People often have a lot to say about whatever it is they are going through. How they feel about it. How it has effected every corner of their life. How difficult it can be to just stay afloat with things like bills, cleaning, and eating. So, number one, listen. Do not fix. Give them space to speak, and give them a safe sounding board.

2. Let the story be about them. So often I wanted to say, "look, I know you are trying to help, but your story is not my story, and you don't really know what I am going through. You aren't me." I also didn't want to hear another story about somebody's friend's mother that also had breast cancer. And this was true especially when the somebody's friend's mother died. These stories were often what brought back the anxiety and hurt that I had finally managed to cast off for the day.

3. Hug much. Especially for those who are far away from the action. When I was aching for my family in the Midwest and living in Massachusetts the thing that ministered to me the most was the plethora of hugs that found me. Sometimes a little safe and healthy touch communicates more than any words could say.

4. Use Scripture sparingly. I knew that God was in control. That doesn't mean that I wasn't angry at God somedays. And, that didn't mean that there weren't days that I didn't trust Him. Let the person work those hurts out with God. Listen. But, let them experience the emotion that goes with what they are going through. After all, emotions aren't bad; it's all in what we do with them. I love the Word of God. But pulling one verse out of the whole to try and make someone feel better - in my experience - doesn't work. I wish it did. I would experience a lot less pain in my life.

5. When you offer to help, offer something tangible. I remember many people saying "Let me know if I can do anything." I say that, too. It's not always easy to know what to offer, but it's a whole lot easier to take someone up on something specific than a broad "anything." My favorite example is when someone delivered a pizza to my parent's house. This was before chemo when my mother was just tired. So, being relieved of making dinner was a great help to my parents. Another great offer is to suggest cleaning for someone. Or, get their groceries, or take them to the doctor. This is especially helpful for people who are enduring radiation every day or who get really sick from chemo and can't drive, but don't limit it to someone who can't drive...sometimes it's just nice to have someone to do yucky things with...they don't seem quite as yucky. Some of these simple everyday things are what you don't have energy for when you are fighting a disease or are hurting for someone else who is fighting the disease.

6. Encouraging notes can be the balm someone needs for that day. I have saved a few of the precious notes I received during my mother's cancer. Some of them were sincere, deeply moving prayers to the Father on our behalf. Some of them were little reminders of what people value in me...just so I wouldn't forget. Some of them were expressions of deep love for me and/or my mother.

7. Do pray. It seems trite. But, that is how we unleash the healing power of the Holy Spirit. And, don't just pray when you leave their side. Pray in their presence. Stop. Take their hands and plead on their behalf. Now, I don't want to get into the theology of prayer right here, but after those hard months a couple years ago, I am so sure it works. There were days that I am pretty sure others' prayers are what kept me from completely falling apart.

If you have experienced deep hurt from disease, please feel free to leave other thoughts on this post. The ones I listed are what I have found to be true... I'd love to read some thoughts from a different perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment