My last two posts were about forgiving our family and us as we stumble and fall while walking the end of life journey with our parents. Today, I'm writing about forgiving our friends. I've come across multiple blogs and articles about "what not to say" to someone who is in the throws of watching a parent or loved one die. Most of these pieces tell us more about the author than about the person trying to comfort his or her friend.
The challenge for the person who is watching a friend suffer is to know when to speak up and when to remain silent. Most of the time we say to our friends what would comfort us. If it gives us comfort to know that God is in control we share out belief that "God has a plan" even in difficult times. Or if we believe that the death of this body is not the end, we will share our belief that "You will see them again" one day. These words are meant to lessen the pain not cause more.
Even after 30 years, I still remember one of the most painful responses a young widow I knew gave to a well-meaning friend after hearing her husband had been tragically killed in a plane crash. The friend, who was a person of faith said, "But today he is with God". And the widow responded, "I know but I will miss him so". I was not the only person in the room dumb struck by the pain in her voice. It silenced us all.
I don't believe in a one size fits all response when comforting friends who are watching their parents struggle with aging and dying. The lesson I learned through my personal journey is that my friends, like my siblings and me will make mistakes. Some mistakes will be less painful than others but people aren't perfect. What is perfect is your friends desire to soothe your pain. When your friend shares his or her personal belief they are trying to put a salve on your wound. Remember when you were very little and would get hurt and your friend offered up his or her "lovey" for you to cuddle. You probably pushed the lovey away because you needed your lovey. But hold on to the knowledge that your friend's offer was filled with love and a desire to lessen your pain.
Forgive your friends. They are trying the best they can to love and care for you during a difficult time. Forgiveness will lightens your load.
Week 6: Your Spouse