I have really wanted to recap some of the amazing things I’ve learned in the series about getting through at Saddleback Church. I’m sure everyone in the free world knows that Pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide in April. He returned after a four month leave and is teaching a series on getting through hard times, and it’s been really powerful.
He outlines 6 stages of grief: Shock, sorrow, struggle, surrender, sanctification, and service.
In this post I’ll discuss what I learned about the first stage.
Shock: When your world collapses
When you first receive the bad news, you do not know how to respond but to say “no.” You refuse to believe it. This is also referred to as the “denial” stage, but he calls it “shock.” You can’t accept what has happened, nor can you complete basic tasks. You need PEOPLE. You need a support system. He said that his small group came to his son, Matt’s house to stand on the driveway with Rick and his wife as they waited for law enforcement personnel to finish their assessment. They followed the Warrens home and stayed the night. They brought meals and did laundry — all things you can’t think about doing when your world has been turned upside down.
He gave some important pointers for every one of us as we comfort those who are in shock, or grieving. The most important was to “show up and shut up.” If you’ve had a traumatic life experience and been turned off by the support offered by others when it comes in the form of “understanding what you’re going through” then you understand why it’s so important to shut up. The family doesn’t need to hear that you understand their pain. There are no magical words that will make it better. They just need your presence. Offer to listen, and don’t say a word. Also, we often offer assistance in the form of “let me know what I can do,” and then we are surprised when the person never asks for anything. “Well he must not need anything” you think. Wrong. Don’t make a grieving person reach out and ask for help; just be there and do it.
He stressed the importance of human connection, and having a support system. He suggests that this support system lie outside your family. This makes sense. His grief was shared by his entire family, so how could they support one another while grieving the same, terrible, loss? His small group provided this comfort for him, but it made me really think about my community, my village. Am I the type of support person that waits to be asked? Or do I show up and fill in the gaps? Moving forward I will focus on more doing, less talking.
Listen to the service here.