As I write this, two anniversaries are on my mind. One today -- one tomorrow.
It was eighteen years ago that I had the honor of giving my sister a kidney. Not an easy decision, but though there were challenges I didn't foresee, I am so grateful for the experience. I have never written anything formal about that event before Chapter 10 in Getting Through What You Can't Get Over, and if you've read the book, you'll understand why. It's taken me that long to process some dramatic, miraculous, and highly emotional things that happened. Though it was hard, I wouldn't change the chance to be a living donor -- one of the best decisions I've ever made. But it doesn't mean I don't still grieve my missing organ, or that my sister is out of danger.
A part of me is gone, gladly given to another, but still, every May 19th, I face the anniversary reminding me, I can't take it back. My life will never be the same, and though my sister has gained extra time, the looming question of how much longer lingers. We never have enough time with those we love. Yet, our anniversary is a cake walk, compared to Debby's tragic truth. Her anniversary is tomorrow.
With her permission, and as a way for her to work through her emotions, and honor her daughter, I shared Debby's story in Chapter 11. It will be two years tomorrow since the May 20, 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornado. A disastrous day many have already forgotten, while those who mourn will always remember.
For weeks, I've felt the pressing in of these two dates -- with my sister's health failing once again, and for the Marks family and the community of Moore, impacted by the murderous monster that swept down from the sky. I am impassioned to spread a message of hope for the hurting, and to encourage those who love them to be aware of how their actions affect the healing.
If I could sit down with well meaning people, there's a short list of things I'd like to share about how to really help the hurting, instead of inadvertantly pouring alcohol into throbbing wounds.
- When the rest of the world moves on, those who mourn often feel stuck. They desperately want things to be different, but post traumatic stress is a wiley enemy. We don't choose depression for attention. Hurting people want to feel free, happy, and whole.
- Treat a person who has experienced a major loss with compassion, dignity, and concern. Don't make them feel bad about the need to talk about the event over and over. This is one way they process through all of those emotions, and can help them move forward, versus forcing them to stay stuck. Allow them to cry, laugh, or both, as they reminisce about a time they wish would return.
- There is nothing wrong with a hurting person venting to heal. There is something very wrong when we don't give them the gift of listening, and make them feel worse for an intrinsic need.
- Don't set a timeline for someone else's grief. It's personal. It's unique. And you can't feel what you haven't experienced, so you are not qualified to tell them how long their pain should last.
- Research the necessary stages of grief, so you can understand the emotional roller coaster of a ride no one wants to be on. In my book, I used the seven stages outlined by Certified Grief Counselor, Jennie Wright.
- Proverbs 25:20 (NIV) in the Bible says this, "Like one who takes a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart." So stop trying to cheer someone up, who is in the throes of grief. If God offers understanding and compassion, we should too.
- There's a difference between grieving and mourning. Grief is felt inward. Mourning is expressed outward. Both are necessary parts of the healing process. So when someone has experienced loss, know that unless they get the grief out through mourning, they cannot wholly heal.
- If you know someone who's been through a really rough patch, ask if they would like to talk about their loss, if they want to, clamp your lips and listen. Offer to help them tackle a task. Even if they decline, your care will speak encouragement into their wounded heart.
Many of us are forced to deal with memories we wish we didn't have to face. This kind of hurt bubbles back to the surface when sad anniversaries come. But being reminded you are not alone and forgotten -- well that can help you get through things you'll never get over. It can help you make it through another day.