May 19, 2008
How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 11
Another extremely helpful ministry to a grieving friend or family member is cleaning. I know it probably seems like, “Wow, this grief thing’s a good gig—no cooking, no cleaning…”
Maybe it only feels that way to me, someone who is grieving, because I’m the recipient of such lavish gifts. I feel a little self-conscious about receiving, receiving, receiving. Which, by the way, is something that God has been revealing in my heart during this season of what seems like so much “getting.” It’s very humbling.
I don’t like to not do my fair share. I don’t like to feel like dead weight. But often times, in the last eight months, that’s what I’ve been. And in thinking about the spiritual significance of that, it’s absolutely true about my relationship with God. I’m dead weight. He does not need me for anything. He’s just giving and giving, and I’m constantly receiving. And gosh darn it, I try my best to pay him back, earn my keep, pull my weight, etc., but I never can. It’s all about his grace to me as a sinner.
There was one Saturday when some friends banded together and cleaned my house—it was a total surprise, all of their own initiative. They told Abraham to get me out of the house and they went absolutely over the top with fresh flowers everywhere, lunch on the table when we arrived home, and an in-home massage in the afternoon! It was incredible. I wept for days each time I thought of their kindness to me. Such creativity, such selflessness. And here I am, just sponging it all up. Receiving—again.
Part of what makes this receiving so difficult is knowing that the people who are taking the time to come clean my house have houses of their own to clean, children of their own to take care of, plans on their calendars to keep. It’s a humbling thing to admit “I can’t keep up.” And it’s even more humbling to add to that, “Please clean my toilets.”
Here’s how I’ve dealt with this heavy dose of humility as “the grieving friend”:
- I don’t feel as guilty about having my house cleaned if I leave and just let someone do it while I’m gone. If I’m involved in any way, I’m defeating the purpose of why they’re there, which is to bless me and my family. My self-conscious lurking doesn’t help anyone.
- I also don’t feel as guilty if someone else initiates. It basically doesn’t happen if I have to call someone and say, “I can’t get out from under this, can you come do this for me?” Granted, tons of people tell you when your tragedy happens, “If there is anything I can do—anything—just let me know,” but what they don’t count on when they say that is what position that puts the grieving person in—always having to ask and feeling like a huge imposition. That’s really, really hard.
What you can do:
- Just call and offer to clean. If she’s evasive or you can tell she feels guilty about that, ask concrete questions like, “What day would work best for me to come and clean at your house?”
- Ask her to make a list of where her cleaning supplies are and what jobs she’d like you to do. If that’s difficult for her, then just take over and do the tasks that seem most necessary—whatever will make her feel like the house is clean when she gets home.
It’s never too late to help. You have not missed the boat if it’s been 4 months, 8 months, 12 months. Remember, the reality of her loss might just be setting in and she’s languishing in ways you would have never expected.
(Read other posts in this series.)