How to Help Someone who is Mourning
A long awaited four-day weekend had finally arrived. I packed my duffel bag with haste anticipating the road trip I was about to embark on with a few close friends. I could not have asked for better companions. The drive passed with ease as the four of us young men engaged in provocative conversation and as exclamations of delight in God’s creation flowed freely from our mouths.
I had already taken into consideration that upon my return on Sunday night I would be welcomed by a sizeable load of homework and I would have become indebted no little sum to the keeper of sleep. This by no means seemed insuperable though and hardly tinted the ecstasy I was experiencing.
We spent our time in Seattle, exploring every part that was accessible to us. We slept on the floor of a church and walked the streets late into the night meeting the most diverse set of people I could have imagined. My heart was light and I felt alive.
The adventure fulfilled my expectations completely. I pulled into my driveway as the sun was setting expecting to be warmly welcomed by my parents and then rapidly finish my homework. I stepped out of my car door and everything changed in the blink of an eye:
“Oh, Drew! I am so glad you made it back. I didn’t want you to come home to an empty house. Join me; your dad is in the hospital.” I heard my mom exclaim.
Entering the hospital room, I was grieved to see my father in such a weak state. His body was covered in rash, which ate away his rough skin leaving tender flesh exposed. His mouth was festering with sores making it painful to utter even the shortest of sentences. My ultra-marathon running father had been reduced to a poor man who needed assistance to take on a seated position.
The loss of a parent due to illness, injury, divorce or death affects a child or young adult drastically; physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also call a child to step up in maturity and grow through the trials they are faced with. My experience with this is minimal in comparison with the tragedies that many young people are forced to endure, but it tore me from bliss and made me aware.
My father was transported an hour north to OHSU and was in critical condition through thanksgiving, his birthday, my brother’s birthday – he stayed in the hospital through Christmas and New Years. Everything was so much different; the omission of a father left me drained (physically, spiritually and emotionally) beyond belief. Along with my normal workload – which often feels over-bearing in its self – it was considered my responsibility to execute the fatherly duties throughout the house and at the apartments of which he is landlord. My mother was so often at my father’s side that I assumed many of her duties throughout the house as well. I found myself doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen as my homework called from my yet unopened backpack. On top of these additions, I found myself at the hospital frequently, which greatly reduced the productive hours in my day.
Less than a week ago I had the opportunity to converse with a sophomore in high school named Jordan who had within the last month lost his father in a fatal car accident. I had been an acquaintance with Jordon for some time and have always admired him for his joy and ready smile. What I now saw was a far cry from what I had remembered. His demeanor was that of an old man. His eyes shone as if a flood of tears were to brim over his eyelid at any moment.
“Before my dad died, I was getting my life back together. I stopped drinking and was really starting to apply myself in school. As soon as I heard news that my dad was killed, I opened up the cabinet that contained alcohol and I began to drown my emotions. Even now I have been drinking and am –“his body began convulsing and he remained silent as tears gushed from his eyes and he was overcome by sorrow.
My life continued as my Papa was lying in his hospital bed, but any joy I experienced during this week was tainted by overtones of worry and sorrow. Many people have counted on me for some time to be the resolute and comforting listener they need in times of strife. I never expected to be the one in need. These days, I was so in need of peer and adult support that I am still inexpressibly grateful (over a year later) for those who came along side me.
I specifically recall two of my friends driving up to the hospital with some candy when my dad was in his most critical state. I didn’t know either of these friends very well, but I appreciated their visit so deeply (they didn’t do anything extraordinary, they were simply there for me; they were friends) and I still regard them as two of my most intimate friends.
A dear friend of mine; Marcus has lived solely with his brother and mother for years due to a divorce in which his father broke ties with his sons. Since that day, Josh has not been effective in school and is currently struggling to meet the requirements for graduation. The absence of a father figure in his life relinquished his ambition to do well in school.
The beginning of this year a passion had sparked within me for writing. Just before my four-day weekend I had been informed that I had the highest grade in my AP Literature class and was doing well in College Writing. The months that my dad was in the hospital, all of this changed. I failed to turn in much of my homework and my class participation was minimal.
Any attempt I made to do my homework was stopped short by guilt. Any time that I spent at home, I felt should be spent at my father’s side. My dad asked me sincerely to take care of myself before him, but I could not. More debilitating than my draw to the hospital was a feeling that I had much more pressing matters to grapple with than to conduct a two-page explication on a sonnet by Wordsworth. I felt that I would benefit much more from processing my own feelings than I would from reading the gloomy tale of Frankenstein and his shunned creation.
My dad is now home, recovering from the sickness, which transformed his able body into an immobile mass. My mind is greatly relieved and my grades are said to be back on the rise. I have had the liberty to take many naps and no longer owe my eyelids any extra rest. For many people who lose their parents, this is not the case. Instead of being a trying era, they find themselves in a life-long situation that they must learn to handle.
In dealing with such hardships some arise to their full potential. This select few decide not to succumb to their circumstances, but to use it as a stepping-stone to reach the highest goals. As James the brother of Jesus urges, “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Those of us who do not have to live in such a difficult spot are blessed beyond our imagination. It is necessary that we do not take this for granted. We must understand that many students who arrive at school late and disheveled everyday have much more on their plates than we could hope to endure. Instead of judging these people, it is imperative that we come along-side them and assist them through their struggles. If we do this, these people will likely rise from their sorrows and find that their task is surmountable.