Tuesday, June 16, 2009

At the Visitation

I think I heard "I'm so sorry for your loss" about a hundred times last week. Then there were the subtle variations: "I'm very sorry for your loss," or "My condolences to your family," or "You have my deepest sympathy." I was surprised by how comforting those short sentences could be. I always feel like I should say more to the bereaved, and that I want to say something to help. But hearing "I'm so sorry for your loss" really meant a lot.

There were two other expressions that left me with mixed emotions, though. Some people would say something to the effect of, "At least your dad is out of his pain now." And others would offer comfort in "You'll always have your memories."

Those things are both true. I am comforted that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death nor sorrow nor crying. There will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. And there definitely are good memories to keep with us.

But what is sad is when the memories or the alleviation of pain IS the comfort. As in, the only comfort. When Christians have confidence in Christ's atonement, they can also find joy in the memories of time spent with loved ones. They know too that the pain is no more for the dear one. But when non-Christians say the same basic thing, there's just an emptiness there that makes you really ache for their loss.


  1. My sister's fil has terminal cancer and this is my fear for him and his family..I do not know if they are people of faith. They are wonderful folks and act "Christian" but I don't know...they do not attend worship. It just breaks my heart for them facing this ALONE.

  2. I'm glad you posted this. I've never really said any of those things before (except maybe, "I'm sorry") because I knew every other person on earth must be saying the same thing. And while I "feel it" and I didn't know what else to say, I was afraid that it might start to sound hollow.

    I guess maybe it's seminary, but what I really kind of wanted to do was ask if I could say a prayer, maybe sing a hymn, and just ask how you guys were doing.

    Not being a pastor, yet, and all, it just kind of feels weird thinking of doing that.

    At least now I know I can say, "I'm sorry for your loss."