Today, the day after Christmas, a day that can be difficult for grieving parents, I was struck by something I read in the devotional reading in “Our Daily Bread”*. The writer was referring to the Connecticut school murder of 20 children and 6 staff members and she pointed out that while many were trying to understand how or why something like that could happen, some specially trained dogs were brought in,”Specially trained golden retrievers that offered nothing except affection. Dogs don't speak: they simply offer their presence. Children traumatized by the violence opened up to them, expressing fears and emotions they had not spoken to any adult.” In this devotional someone was quoted as saying of the dogs that, “The biggest part of their training is just learning to be quiet.” What a great lesson we can learn from these dogs in our effort to help people in their grief. I have learned in my experience of dealing with bereaved parents that it is better not to say anything than to say the wrong thing.
Often you may not need to say anything to best comfort a grieving parent. At a recent support group meeting I attended, a parent shared that at the viewing of their five year old daughter quite a few years ago many, many people came through the line but he said that after all these years he could not remember one thing any body said to him, but he can never forget one person who just hugged him and cried with him without a spoken word. That reminds me of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who wept with two sisters as they mourned the loss of their brother. (John 11:35)
Parents who have experienced the death of one of their children have a need to share their story, to talk about their grief. Finding someone who can truly listen is a blessing. I pray that I can be a better listener in my ministry to grieving parents.
The writer of the above mentioned devotional sums up by saying that, “People in grief do not always need words. Sometimes they need someone to sit and listen silently with them, to listen when they speak, and to hug them when their sorrow turns to sobs.”
*Our Daily Bread, 2013 RBC Ministries, Printed in USA, volume 58, numbers 9,10 & 11