April 9, 2014
It was Benjamin Franklin who said “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” You’ve likely already filed your taxes for this year, with a sigh of relief. But the issue of death still leaves you feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Today I hope to change the way you deal with death. Maybe you’ll take away some advice on how to help the hurting. Or begin to heal your own wounds.
Pam and Dan Waterman lost their infant son, Benjamin, in a car accident. In the blink of an eye, they watched the miracle of birth transform into the mystery of death. The journey of this Livonia, NY family thrust them into a ministry one would never choose.
“It was in the scriptures that God led us to Corinthians; the verses that talk about how to important it is to comfort others with the same love that God uses to comfort. There was a void in Christ-based bereavement support. In God’s way, just this ministry being pieced together.”
Pam has come to describe grief as trying to stay afloat in a sea. Sometimes the current is smooth and life is good. And then, often without warning, the sea rears her ugly head and you feel like you’re being pulled into the ocean depths through the undertow of sadness. That’s why their ministry icon is the lighthouse.
“When we come into a personal relationship with God and we learn about His son being the light of the world; that light that rescues a lost sinner and the hope of Heaven. We know Jesus also can rescue those from the raging sea of grief. Without the Lord Jesus, I am sure I would have lost my sanity when I lost my son, Ben.”
Healing takes time. The amount of time is different for each one of us. And complete healing may never come.
“Grieving is a life long journey. We never forget those whom we’ve lost. The world has this concept that we should just move on. We carry on from our grief. We don’t move on. We’re taking every precious memory of that person that we have lost with us into this new chapter; this new normal that we have to come to grips with.”
Like many emotional situations, dealing with grief can be especially challenging for men. Staying strong and keeping a stiff upper lip is nearly impossible when you’re working through a deep profound grief, like the loss of a son. Dan says it’s important that men embrace their emotions.
“You need some time to just go and just have a cry, just do it. Because it#8217;s okay. I thought that when we were going through our time, my first thoughts about it were ‘Well, if this is a way that my wife can heal, do this for her because it’s a way she might be able to heal from all that has happened.#8217; Yet, God’s turned it into something that will help many people.”
Most of us have experienced the awkward funeral home exchange. We never know how to act, or what to say. And if the deceased was a believer in Jesus, there’s a temptation to have some joy for their journey to Heaven. But for those who are grieving, there is little you can do to comfort their loss. So what should we say?
“Move beyond those words ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’ and ask them how they’re doing. Ask them where their struggles are. How can I pray for you?”
Family Life Biblical Counselor Gary Short agrees…your presence is one of the greatest gifts you can give the grieving heart. Knowing that despite their loss there are people on this side of Eternity who care, and who are willing to give the time.
“Just sitting with them, following through as far as what they may need and asking the Holy Spirit ‘What’s the best thing for me to do?’ Not preach at them. Just relaxing ourselves.”
Above all, try to put your own needs for comfort aside, and consider how you can be used.
“I’m always a little uncomfortable; &8216;What do I say? What do I do?’ I just need to relax and realize it’s not about me; it’s about the other person. And I don’t want to come in and just spiritualize things and just say ‘Hey, everything works out for good.’ You don’t want to get into that. Just come alongside the person and be there with them.”
Besides support groups and conferences, Benjamin Ministries distributes Bereavement Care Packages, which include a personalized memorial document, honoring the loved one who has died. When someone requests a package, Pam often advises they wait a little while.
“It’s okay for a little time to pass. People will get on with their lives and you kind of are sitting there, shaking your head, asking the question ‘What just happened?’ That’s the period of time that you are coming out of your shock.”
To read more of Benjamin’s story, or to request a care package, visit the Benjamin Ministries website.