As a Young Mens leader in my ward, I’m seldom called upon to offer guidance during times of grief. So I was at a complete loss recently when a desperate father reached out for help with his son, who had witnessed the tragic death of his best friend.
The young man hadn’t been to church in years, and in fact I’d never met him. So I was expecting an awkward housecall—I figured the last thing a grieving teenager wants is a stranger from church to talk to. What should I say? How should I act?
I sent a distress call to the wise BCC permabloggers, who pointed me to a wealth of resources here on the blog. I wanted to aggregate and share their guidance, as we’ve had much to mourn over the past couple weeks. I hope it’s as helpful for you as it has been for me. Please feel free to share any additional resources and reactions in the comment.
Aaron R’s post from 2010 is the best possible expression of how we can mourn with those that mourn. This will be my template for all such situations for the rest of my life.
mmiles has some excellent advice on how to mourn in the internet age, with a list of specific dos and don’ts. Facebook can be both a comforting tool and a blunt weapon during times of mourning.
Jacob wrote a beautiful essay about the challenges and opportunities for us in mourning with our fellow Saints:
“Truly mourning with the Saints may very well be the most demanding element of what constitutes us as genuine members of the body of Christ. It requires us to turn ourselves inside out in order to meet vulnerability with vulnerability. There’s an enormous risk that our acts of mourning will not be received, or that they will be misinterpreted, or simply not be sufficient for the task. Comforting can be terribly uncomfortable. It’s little wonder that we often either tentatively extend ourselves in superficial ways or try to avoid comfort and mourning altogether.”
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Sunny wrote a remarkable post entitled “Keeping Vigil with the Dying”:
“In the best parts of ourselves I believe we yearn to do what Christ has done for us, to become intimately acquainted with another’s grief, to take it into ourselves and know for ourselves what that experience was for each person in each moment, that we might know how to succor, to heal, to mend. That, above all, they might not suffer alone.”
Those looking for philosophical answers will be satisfied and frustrated in equal measure by Jacob’s Sunstone presentation on Alma 14, and the seemingly irreconcilable theodicy issues it presents. An especially apropos topic right now.
This comment by smb, the preeminent expert on Mormon grieving rituals:
“I have recently loved a book that WJK published by one of the preeminent mainline Protestant preachers: Thomas Long, Accompany them with Singing. He has a wonderful section where he talks about hopeful doctrines (e.g. heavenly reunions) as a trust that we keep for people so that, when such reassurances will be actually useful (often months or years later), we can carry the faith back to them.”
This comment by Sunny:
“When my dad died I remember so well the wish that I could be among people, but not really present. I wanted to be a part of the normalcy of others’ lives, yet didn’t possess the strength to participate myself. I wanted them to move around me, not toward me. I wished that they would go on as if I wasn’t there, yet allow me to be there, observing and soaking in the stream of life moving forward. Sometimes mere presence is more than enough to bridge the chasm where words fall short.”