Office Hours:

Tuesday to Friday 8am to 1pm

 Phone : 306-586-3613

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 Sunday Service: 10:30am

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What to say when words don't seem to be enough

It's been a hard couple of weeks for many of us.  We seem to be surrounded by death, injury and deep hurt.  For me, personally, it really feels that way.  As a minister, death is not a stranger.  I officiate funerals, I sit with the dying, I accompany families when life support is ended, and I journey with people as they make plans to celebrate a life.  I have buried a child, a teen, and a mother, plus various elders.  Conversations about dying are not unusal in my house.  But these last two weeks have really taken its toll for me.  Over the Easter break, I was involved with supporting friends and dancing sisters of a twelve year old suicide victim.  These friends, while not parents of the child, were deeply connected to her and had been for a long time.  Their children were close friends.  When I got the phone call, looking for grief support for the friend's daughter, my world veered sideways.  The child who died was a passing acquaintance with my daughter... they were practically the same age.  How does this happen?  I sat with children who were trying to figure out what all this means, I talked with parents whose very hearts were broken by the news, I talked to young dancers who were watching their parents and siblings cry and hurt.  I went to a funeral where the pain of the loss literally caused the parents of the child to stoop.  Never have I seen so much pain in one place.

And while this pain was taking place, sixteen people lost their lives in a bus accident, many of whom were young and at the beginning of living out their dreams.  And the pain in our communities intensified, for when young life is ended, no matter how, the grief is much more keen.  We get to thinking about the loss of potiential, the denial of dreams, and the end of a life that barely got started.

Then came the call about a congregant from Whitmore Park United.  A member is in a bad way, could I come and visit.  A once lively, vibrant elder is now a shadow of himself, with the reality of death lingering close by.  He is in his late 80s,  In our conversation that day he acknowledged that death was coming and holding my hand he said he had no regrets.  And my heart broke again, for I knew what his death would mean to his life companion of over 60 years.  

I found myself at a loss.  Particularly with the first situation.  I am a minister, I am supposed to know what to say and how to say things so that others feel comfort, and yet I found myself searching for words.  If that is the realilty for me, I can only imagine how other struggle with what to say... how do you find the words to say in a situation that surpasses all other experiences?  What do you say to some one when the pain is more that you can comprehend?  

The struggle is to find words that reflect what we are thinking and feeling, and speaking with authenticity, so that our words are not hollow or cliche.  So often, we get flustered and find ourselves speaking the first platitude that comes to mind... and depending on the platitude, it isn't always a bad thing.  But honestly, like I said in my last post, words like "It's God's plan" or "God needed another Angel" or "everything happens for a reason" are not helpful things to say.  If you find that these are the words that first come to mind, then stop, take a minute, hold the person's hand or simply sit beside them before you say anything.  The physical presence of a friend or companion, can be enough.  Silence can be as comforting as words.  When the time comes to talk, you might find that saying "I'm sorry for your loss" or "I am here for you" or "what can I do for you, what do you need right now?" opens the door for conversation.  This conversation can help you discern how to best support the person in this moment.  In time you can start conversations about the loved one who has died or is dying.  You can share memories and offer words of support.  

In none of these situations were there words better than "I am here for you".  Words that speak to your willingness to support these people through the darkest of times, and after them.  On the day of the 12 year old's funeral, I had no words for the friend I was supporting...a deep hug was all either of us needed at that time.  A physical reminder of our connectedness.  In the midst of tears, holding a hand, a side hug, a hand on the back were the best and only ways to offer some modicum of support.  

As I left the Whitmore Park member, I kissed his forehead and simply said "you are not alone.  You are loved."  There really wasn't much more I could say.  

I guess what I am trying to say is that the best thing we can do as people of faith, is to remind people as they grieve or as they struggle with life, that they are not alone.  That they are loved, and cherished, and that even in the darkest of places, there is someone there for and the Holy.  These are incredible, strong, and meaningful words that can bring comfort, relief and love.  

Hm.  Thanks for letting me unload this today.  Carrying the care of others can be tiring, and is a gift of my calling.  May you always know that you are loved and cherished.  Hopefully next blog I offer will be of spring and summer dreams!   Blessings as you journey.

Written by : Tricia Gerhard

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Sunset United Church


Phone: 306-586-3613

177 Sunset Drive
Regina, SK, S4S 6Y7

Office Hours: see top of page