How to Care for Someone Who Walked through Sorrow this Year
Nine months. That's the amount of time my family has been blessed by meals from others - three very joyous occasions, the birth of three sons, and one tragedy, the death of our baby girl.
The first three months after our loss were the hardest, and for those first three months food came. Nothing felt good during those days, but I do remember taking a break from the taste of my salty tears to savor the sweetness of homemade chocolate chip brownies. In that moment, sugar was kind. I remember my friend Wendy's chicken cordon bleu, the cheese she took the time to grate herself for the baked potatoes and the apple pie. I remember eating her meal covered by a blanket on the couch. I couldn't even get up to go to the table, but I ate every bite and I daydream about that meal still. Every morsel tasted of kindness. For months, food from others brought comfort. The extension of a meal from trembling hands spoke volumes in the silence about love. And at that time, love was all we needed.
After three months, the meals stopped. The door bell ceased ringing and the loneliness of grief grew greater. We watched as winter became spring and life moved on all around us. But in our home, winter remained. Have we been forgotten? Does everyone think we are okay again?
Around this same time I was given a copy of Tear Soup. This simple, illustrated book gave the uncharted territory of grief some tracks. It helped us to understand what we were feeling, how we might deal with it, and made sense of the way others were dealing with our grief too. This allegory conveyed that when we grieve, we make tear soup. And for a long season of time, this tear soup may be the only thing we can or even want to eat. It speaks of the very best friends, the ones who stop by, bring bread to eat with the soup, and ask if they can come join us for a bitter meal. In time, the tear soup moves to the freezer, but the pot never empties. It's always there, always ready to be pulled out at any moment, when a cold, grieving day requires such a meal.
It has been nearly eight years since I lost my Anna Rose. Most days are sweet. Most days I am completely enthralled and elated by the little boys that call me mama, and the joys and blessings I wake to each morning. But then, there are the days when cold gusts of grief wind come uninvited into my world. Unfortunately, holidays bring this wind. I buy dinosaurs and trucks for the boys and walk away from the tea sets and princess gowns holding back the flood gate of tears. The holidays bring loneliness as I hold this sorrow in my heart, and yet smile to blend in with the holiday crowd. But at night, after I get the boys tucked into bed, I can often be found pulling tear soup out of the freezer.
Who do you know that has walked through sorrow this year? Who smiles as if to say, "I'm good," when really tear soup might be thawing on the counter? As I approach Christmas, I am asking these questions. I want to be the one who does not forget. I want to remember my friends and family members, but also my neighbors and the person I barely know who sits across the sanctuary from me. I know what they are feeling in the silence, and I want them to know, "I don't forget you, I won't forget your loved one, and I do not forget your pain."
Might I suggest a few simple ideas to those of you who want to remember too.
Do exactly what you did in the very beginning and take them a meal. Make a pot of soup, buy a copy of Tear Soup and write a note that says:
"Just wanted you to know I am remembering you and your pain and praying for you during this holiday season."
Buy a blanket, the coziest throw you can find. Make a homemade tea, coffee, or hot chocolate mix, add a beautiful mug, and write a note that says:
"Praying that you will feel the love and comfort of God and friends surrounding you this Christmas. We will never forget."
Buy a beautiful baking dish - make some brownies, cinnamon rolls, or coffee cake and write a note that says,
"Thinking of you, remembering him and praying."
We make it more complex than it really is. We stay away because we feel like we are not the right person for the job... "I'm not a counselor. I'm not the best friend. I don't know what to say." Or we simply see the smile and think, "They're good, I won't bring it up. I don't want to cause more pain." The truth is the pain is there whether you say something or not. Loving others in their pain is really much simpler than we fear it to be. It's about being remembered. It's about feeling considered and knowing that your loss and your feelings are being regarded even at a busy and happy time like Christmas. A simple gesture that says, "I'm thinking of you, I remember your pain and I acknowledge you" may actually cause a whole lot more comfort and love than you might think. I know it has for me.
So who can you remember this holiday season? Who can you bless by a simple gesture that speaks volumes of love? Turn on your oven, make a batch or pot of something delicious and add a few tears as you take the time to remember. Know that your simple act will make a big impact on the aching heart of the one who receives it.