Dog Rules for Grieving

Dog rules

I was on the phone with someone whose loved one died a few days ago. This person hurts physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But grieving, nowadays, has become worse. With its shelter-in-place and social-distancing demands, the Covid-19 pandemic widens and deepens grief.

And then my dog arrived.

How odd to work at home and not the office!

My five-year-old golden retriever shoved her head into my available hands after the conversation started. Can’t those hands (“free” because of iPhone ear buds) get busy? 99.5% of my concentration remained with the person whose loved one has died. But maybe 00.5% was devoted to the “pet me” demands of my furry friend! Elsewhere in the house, my wife Zooms with colleagues. One of our cats is lounging on a table, and the other feisty feline is probably outside keeping us safe from rambunctious squirrels.

We talked. I listened. I offered encouragement. I reminded the grieving “client” about my hospice’s resources. Currently, we are not doing in-person counseling sessions but our grief counselors will reach out by phone or online or both. Soon, we will start grief support groups for the summer, though they might have to rely on the now ubiquitous Zoom platform.

And I kept petting Kynzi. Read More →

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What Can You Control?

on control

Then a young pastor, I recall leaving one of my first graveside services. (Though it felt more like escaping.) Outwardly, I may have appeared calm and serious. Inwardly, I berated myself for forgetting parts of the Lord’s Prayer.

Yeah, I said forgetting!

I didn’t know the son and daughter of the dearly departed. They’d called my church, searching for a minister in their “hour of need.” Now, with the simple service finished, the two siblings walked behind me. Without glancing back, I easily overheard their not-whispered conversation. I fretted they might be exchanging snide criticisms about the stupid pastor who messed up Christianity’s most famous prayer.

Not at all!

They were arguing about their mother’s will and her possessions.

I had fumbled the Lord’s Prayer’s final sentences. How embarrassing! At the open grave of a stranger, with a handful of her family that I’d only met in one meeting prior to the service, I’d shut my Book of Worship and invited the mourners to pray with me. It was just the Lord’s Prayer. They were words I’d memorized as a kid in Sunday school way back when. But I was nervous. Faking a few final muttered words, I hurried to the “Amen.” Read More →

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My New Four-Letter Words

Words Matter

As much as my words could be labeled as platitudes or clichés, they are heartfelt . . .

There are two four-letter words that I have usually said at the close of a conversation with someone grieving: Take care. In recent weeks, I have added two “new” four-letter words because of the microscopic onslaught of Covid-19: Stay safe.

There are additional slightly longer or shorter words that are included in my predictable, simplistic responses when trying to support those hurting after the death of a loved one:

  • How are you doing?
  • Is this a good time to talk?
  • Can I call you again?
  • Your (crying, not crying, eating, not eating, silence, worries, lack of concentration, weariness, plunging back into work) seems normal.

As much as my words could be labeled as platitudes or clichés, they are heartfelt. At the end of a phone call to a griever, a few weeks or months after the death, I say the Take care like it is a prayer. I indeed mean it as a prayer, as a spoken and shared hope for their future. And I don’t mean the future of years, but the future of a griever’s next moments and hours. When we grieve, time skids out of our control, like a car losing traction on a road’s black ice. Time slows. Time accelerates. A minute takes an hour. A day can whoosh by and we can’t recall anything accomplished between waking and returning to bed. My Take care is about treading lightly into the next moments. It’s about acknowledging a world that has temporarily lost color, meaning, clarity, purpose, plans, and so many other things that seemed “easy” a day or decade ago. Read More →

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