Friday, May 27, 2016

Help for the Hurting

by Brenda Black

In tragedy and grief, we come together as a community to both share and bear the weight of walking through it rightly. We do our level best to say kind things and to demonstrate loving actions. All the while, we wrestle with insufficiency and second guess our good intentions. Is there ever truly a right response? Is silence the best choice? Yes...and no to both questions. There is no perfect plan in the midst of grief. There are just humans trying to offer comfort and peace any way they know how. And therein lies the greatest challenge: we don't know what to say or do to make it better.

Accepting that reality may well provide opportunity for the greatest acts of sympathy. For when we don't have the eloquence nor vocabulary, all we can offer is love, respect and understanding.

A community expresses love often in the face of tragedy, by eagerly extending generosity. From prayers to proceeds, sometimes all folks can do is just do something.

Respect and understanding are a little harder to handle. According to, a few of the best ways to demonstrate true concern begin with admitting you simply may not know what to say. “I wish I had the right words, just know I care.” “I don't know how you feel, but I am here to help anyway I can.” Saying nothing or just offering a hug speaks volumes. Above all, the best way we can offer support is to call on the only One who truly understands and go to God in prayer.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” Psalm 34:18. The peace He brings is unparalleled and so incredibly powerful at times like this. His touch is tender. His comfort is complete. His love is what is needed most – for the grieving and the consoling. For His love is perfect and in our weakness, He proves Himself strong, and closer than ever.

Merciful and faithful Lord, because of Your great love, we are not consumed, for Your compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. God, You are our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Help us to not fear, though the earth seems to give way and a mountainous weight presses down on our aching hearts. Though waters of grief roar and in our shaken state, we feel like the ground beneath our feet quakes, we will be still and know that You are God. You, Lord Almighty, are with us. You are our fortress. (Lam. 3:22-23; Ps. 41:1-2, 10-11)

©201 The Word's Out-Brenda Black

Friday, May 13, 2016

May Day! May Day! Tears on the Way!

By Brenda Black

No matter how many years pass, no matter how far removed from the direct ties to a graduate, I still cry at commencements. I scan the audience, spotting moms who are doing their level best to just keep it all together for the moment. Instantly, I'm in their skin and I'm the mess. My heart races, tears trickle and I find myself digging through my purse for a tissue to blot damp cheeks marked by empathy.

Why, oh why, does Mother's Day have to come in the same month, and often on the same day as graduation ceremonies? The one-two punch to a maternal gut is nearly more than a momma can take standing up! I liken it to post traumatic stress, with flashbacks from birthing pains to toddler tumbles each time you attend “the last” of something. Last game, last day, last performance, last award banquet, last...last...last. All such finality causes the brain to churn up memories of all the firsts.

Numbly you go through the motions surrounded by other shell-shocked parents, pretending to be celebrating rather than grieving. The first lost tooth, the first step, the first word and that big ol' bus swallowing your five year old up on the first day of school jolts one into the awful reality that 13 years have come and gone in a flash.

And there they stand, young men and young women, taller and stronger than their folks. Still, in a mother's eyes these are infants just yesterday rocked and swaddled. Doggone it, I'm crying again just thinking about it!

From one who's been there and survived, my heart goes out to each of you dying a little inside. Trust me when I tell you, there are more great days ahead. There will be phone calls home late in the night when mom's voice is the only one those big kids want to hear. Through the grogginess and worries, your heart will be filled. You'll be squeezed hard and lifted off the floor with bear hugs and big sighs, accompanied by all that college laundry when they come home for a visit. Your world will widen with them. New people, new places, new topics of conversation are just around the bend.

And then one day you sense the greatest change; without warning you've become dear friends. Oh, you will always be their mama, but this shift is something magical. As they transform into independent adults, you are escorted past another milestone. There you'll be ushered to a front row seat to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Smiles will come again, but there is one caveat. You'll still cry.

It's just part of the mother phenomenon.

©2016 The Word's Out-Brenda Black