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10 things to say to a grieving friend

1. “You can only be where you are.”

My counselor said these words over and over to me as I kept feeling like I should have made some kind of peace with my grief, I should have found some kind of purpose in it, or I should feel like I could go a day without a splitting headache. Shoulds can be really loud sometimes, but what wise friends shared with me in the pit of grief was I could only be where I was.  If that meant that day I was angry, that day I would be angry.  If it meant that day I wanted to cry, I would cry.  And if it meant that day I just needed to do something mindless, that was okay too.

2. “You’re going to disappoint people.”

Any experience with true grief is an experience of disappointing those around you. Expectations will go unmet and obligations unfulfilled and while I often carried this guilt, I learned that to truly hold my grief often meant not having space to hold ways I had previously shown up.

In her book Out of Sorts, Sara Bessey states that “We sort our lives on the threshold of grief.”  Something about grief, about seeing the frailty and brevity of life changes us.  It makes us.  Often for a time it sends us searching but it always leads us to new understandings and perspectives, also manifesting in new parts of ourselves.  A friend shared with me that this sorting of ourselves on the threshold of grief is like rearranging your house.  While we are reevaluating and moving around the furniture for its best, practical use, if a friend comes in to sit down on the couch where they have always sat, they will fall to the floor.  Becoming new versions of ourselves means not showing up in ways we always have.  Honest grief will cause you to disappoint people and it is a season, in which, they can only be understanding.  Their season will one day come.

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3. “That makes sense to me.”

No more gracious words graced my ears for the summer months of 2016 than these. When I would share the deep pains of my heart, the big questions that kept me up at night, or the fears I had facing the future, some would try to start statements with “at least” or quote scripture to me, but blessed friends would look at me with love and say the most honoring words “That makes sense to me”.

4. “I love you.”

Simple enough but goes the longest way. Your words won’t fix the hurt, but your continued loving presence will minister so much more than any words ever could.

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5. “I’m so sorry.”

Affirming the hurt and not trying to fix it. Saying you’re sorry to a grieving person makes room for them to sit in their pain in your presence.

 

6. “I’m here for you.”

When you need it and when you’re ready, even if that isn’t right now. I’m here for you leaves room for them to best define how they need you rather than assuming.

7. “Where do you see God right now?”

This one is not for the faint of heart due to the extremely honest nature of the depths of grief. You may be met with “I don’t. I literally can’t even begin to think about him.”  And you may be answered with “everywhere and in it all.”  But making room for them to share and wrestle with their walk with God when you aren’t afraid if their wrestling, anger, or doubt is an incredible way to care for those who are grieving.

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8. “That’s really brave.”

When someone is honest about the questions they are wrestling with or the doubts they have in their theology, rather than answering their questions, sitting with them in the asking and affirming their courage makes you an extremely safe place.

9. “How are you?”

They key to this question is to not stop asking. “How are you?” “What does grief look like for you right now?”  not only the week after a loved one is lost but in the months to come.  Remember the anniversaries and birthdays.

10. “It’s not lost on me.”

This is one of my favorite lines Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights would say to a hurting player. He would look into a young man’s broken eyes and compassionately share “It’s not lost on me” that you’re hurting, that you’re angry, that you don’t know what’s going on.  Friends who remember your grief and bring awareness in a caring and private way are friends whose ministry is never forgotten.


 

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Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.  I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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When you don’t want to open your Bible

This was a message I got to share to the students in the WinShape College Program at Berry College in Rome, GA where I am on college ministry staff.  Our focus this year has been on “A Word Centered Life”.  Here is my story on struggling to have one for the past year.

Books quoted: ESV BibleWhen I don’t desire GodHaving a Mary heart in a Martha worldShe Reads Truth: Open your Bible, and Love Does.

“I’m coming with you.”

In studying psychology, I’ve been learning about people for a while now.  People never cease to fascinate me.  Everyone’s personalities, expressions, routines, and thoughts are all so different.  Everyone wants to be loved in a different way, needs to be affirmed in a different way, needs to be challenged in a different way.  The way that our Creator has fashioned us is nothing short of elaborate, complex, and beautiful.

And in studying psychology, I’ve learned a lot about how to interact with people.  I sat in a counseling class where we practiced interacting with one another as a counselor would.  This felt awkward and weird, but it has been so foundational for me.


So I downloaded Audible, which you should totally get.  It’s this app made by Amazon where you can purchase recordings of books that have the actual author reading them.  If you’re someone who finds yourself on the highway a lot, like me, it’s a great find.

I’ve had Bob Goff’s Love Does on my bookshelf and feel terrible to say that I just have not had time to read it.  So despite the fact that I had already bought it, I decided to buy it again via Audible and I very quickly found myself wrapped up in this story.

Bob was a high schooler who was ready to get out of town.  He didn’t really love school and dreamed of going to Yosemite, working at a small café and seeking new adventures.  There was a guy that had been at his high school a good bit who was a part of YoungLife, named Randy.  He thought Randy was cool because he had a beard and a motor cycle so they became friends.  When Bob decided to spontaneously go to Yosemite, he went to tell Randy goodbye.  He said that Randy listened to him and said, “Hold on one second, Bob” and ran back inside.  A few minutes later, Randy came out with a book bag and sleeping bag and said, “Hey, I’m coming with you.  Can I catch a ride?”

So Randy went.

I was waiting for the moment in the car when Randy tried to talk Bob out of this.  I was waiting for Bob to share that only after about 20 minutes they turned around and came back.  But that is not how this story went.

Randy stayed with Bob for days.  As Bob was turned down for job after job, Randy just affirmed him that those places didn’t know what they were missing.  When Bob reached his wit’s end, they headed back home.


I found myself speechless as I heard this story and so challenged.

Recently, a friend and mentor who has been through way too much grief in the past year shared to a group of bloggers I am a part of, that it is so important for us to “Go with” people, not to just “stamp truth” on something they are wrestling with, but to go with them into their pain, fear, grief, etc. and love them there.

And I think that we as a culture are afraid of imperfection.  We only know how to be strong and okay and are afraid of those emotions of our own, better yet someone else’s.  But, how much can we serve by going with our friends, neighbors, coworkers, community, etc. into their pain, fear, grief, guilt, sorry, regret, by telling them those feelings are okay.  What if as the Body of Christ were not afraid of these feelings or of moments of imperfections? What if we could walk with people into the darkness so that they can eventually see authentic light?

I think we can all attest to a time when someone tried to tell us something they felt was truth we needed to hear, but in our spirits it was the very last thing we wanted in that moment.

In fact, I had a whole blog written on how to not love people in that way, but I think it is so much more important to talk about how TO love people in this way.

And I think that there is truth to be spoken, but that truth is planted on the most cultivated soil once you have entered their struggle with them, not when it is first being shared.  For even in the process of planting a seed, you have to first till the soil.

This morning, in my Sunday school class we were discussing a passage in 2nd Samuel, when David wants to build the Lord a house. What God tells David is that He chose to live in a tent on purpose.  He didn’t want to be removed from His people and separated from the difficulty of their journey.  He wanted to be in the trenches of their fight against the Philistines.  God even wants to go with us.


May we not fear grief, pain, hurt, sorrow, or regret.  May we press into the victory that is already ours on the other side of those feelings.  But may we not neglect the journey from this side of those feelings to the joyful promised land awaiting.

A letter to my 16 year old daughter on sexuality

I’ve been hesitant to post this and really hesitant to post anything lately.  The Lord has been walking me on a sweet journey of seeing my inadequacies and being blessed by His grace.  Recently, I sat with a few 16 year olds to talk about sex.  What was weird to me was that in a world where they are so inundated with sexualized messages, they were uncomfortable having a conversation about how their bodies were created or what healthy sexuality looks like.  I think one of the worst responses the Church can have to the sexual revolution is silence.

As a project for one of my classes I had to write a letter to my daughter in various stages of life.  I really resonated with the sweet stage of adolescence, both as I work with teenagers and am so freshly emerging from it.

I don’t write this to share all of the wisdom I have or to claim to be an expert, especially in raising a daughter. These were my very honest thoughts that I’ve been encouraged to share.


 

My little girl,

Happy 16th birthday! It’s so hard to believe you’ve grown up so much. I can’t put words to how much I love you and how proud of you I am. You are so smart and so brave and so beautiful and I am so blessed that you are mine. I know this has been a hard year, but there’s a lot to learn from it that I want to share with you. New things have been happening with your body for the past few years, like I’m sure I sound like a broken record to be saying. I know sometimes you hate this. You hate when you really don’t feel like running in PE, but you feel like you can’t say anything to your teacher. You hate those breakouts that come once a month. You hate when your brother asks you if you’re on your period just because you’re frustrated with him. You hate the way that men look at you in restaurants or at the grocery store, because you’re just a little girl, my little girl! It’s also new that you really do desire to be with boys and many of your friends have started having sex. I am so proud of the commitment you have made to saving yourself for marriage. Thanks for being really open with me when that’s hard. I know where you are coming from probably so much more than you believe on all of these things. Yes, sometimes it feels like ALL of your friends are having sex. Sometimes it sucks to be a woman. And sometimes it’s confusing to know what to do with all of those feelings in this phase of life. Don’t forget just how many times we’ve talked about what a bad choice it is to be having sex right now. There is no magic eraser for STDs or the heartache that follows. Your choice is such a wise one that I am so grateful I made too. Also, don’t forget that I am always here when you want to talk about any of this. I know that you’ve been taught many messages between school and church about saving yourself for marriage, but remember there are some things they teach that are really sad and really not true. I know they’ve taught that boys are so full of testosterone and girls have to keep them in line. They told me the same things. The truth is I know you have sexual desires too. All girls do. You’re not weird. It’s completely biological and natural. And boys’ brains are not the pile of meat they are sometimes painted to be. Boys can be really deep and think really beautifully, so give them a chance to be. Also, Christians a lot of times like to teach you that purity is worth it for your husband. Let me get on my soap box here. Purity is important for you. Protect YOUR body and YOUR heart. They’ll go on and on with this idea about how your life begins when the right man pursues you, but your life began 16 years ago. You are not complete when this dream guy comes along, because the truth is he might not. You are just as significant and fulfilled in The Lord without any man.

I know it’s really hard right now that a lot of your friends are having sex. It’s especially hard when those girls are the ones getting guys attention and you’re not- despite how much I know you love hanging out with your dad and I on a Saturday night ;). When I was your age, I really struggled with believing that those guys weren’t giving me attention because I wasn’t pretty enough. I know we’ve talked your whole life about the standard our media sends us that is fake and unattainable and just plain mean, really. I love how comfortable you are in your body. I love watching you dance so freely at weddings, play so fiercely in your games, and just be so comfortable with your friends. But please please remember that when boys aren’t giving you attention because you won’t have sex with them or any of those risky steps along the way we’ve talked about, first, those aren’t guys whose attention you want. But second, your beauty is not defined by their attention or their attraction. The wounds sink deep when you see all of your friends around you with guys when you really want a guys’ attention, but never for a second believe that they would give you attention if ___________________. You never have to change anything about you for the right guy. It’s tempting to meet this need for attention with other things that we’ve talked about too like sexting or looking at porn. I know right now you’re rolling your eyes a little like “oh my gosh, mom, shut up. You literally talk about this all the time.” and I love that you can hear my voice in your head when you start to think about those things. Remember that any image you send never goes away and while it feels like no big deal in the moment, it is. We’ve talked about how porn is so disgusting and can do a lot of really bad things. Baby, it’s a nasty industry full of nasty people and we just can’t support it. Yes, you desire sex. You were created that way. And one day, if you are going to get married, you’ll have an outlet for that passion, but don’t let porn be your outlet, by either becoming it or watching it. You heart is worth so much more than that.

Yes, there has been some conflict with your friends. Girls can be so sweet but also so mean. Let me first remind you to always be a good friend like I’ve seen you be your whole life. So just like we’ve talked about above, girls are making many bad choices at your age and in your social circles. This is not a time to abandon them or to talk about them. Girls are really bad about being emotional bullies. Be a friend.

I hate that we live in a world where we have to talk about these things, but unfortunately they are a part of life. Know you can always talk to me about anything!! I feel like I was just in your shoes.