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Mourning with and Comforting Those in Need

I spoke in one of our wards in February, and stayed for the entire block of meetings in order to fulfill a particular assignment. As I was standing in the hallway prior to Priesthood meeting, I noticed one of the sisters in the ward crying almost hysterically and being comforted by two other sisters. When I asked about it, I was told that this sister lost a grandson last week in a particularly difficult way to accept.

Seeing that she was being comforted by others, I started to walk away – but I was struck by my resolution for that month – to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. This was exactly the type of situation I had resolved to seek, so I walked over and gave her a hug – and ended up helping to escort her to an empty room, then finding the Relief Society president and helping to arrange for continued help throughout the rest of the meeting schedule.

I was struck by a few things:

1) We shouldn’t limit our comforting and mourning to only those situations where no one else is around to provide it. Even if it appears that “everything is being taken care of” we still should give whatever we can – even if it only ends up being a token of the fact that we really do care. People who are grieving or mourning or need comfort need to know that everyone around them cares about them; getting help from only the first few who happen to see the need often simply isn’t enough. In a very real way, mourning and comforting is ideally a community activity – not just one that is isolated to a few.

2) I really don’t know if my actions will have a lasting impact on this sister; I do believe they will have a lasting impact on me – and that is not an unimportant thing. It is not selfish to want to feel how I felt as I helped her; it is a good thing.

3) This sister called me the next day to thank me for being willing to step outside my role as a visiting High Counselor and help her simply in my role as a friend and brother. I hadn’t looked at it that way as I hugged her, but I am moved by that statement. There is too much formality and structure sometimes to how we interact with each other.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • davidson August 1, 2008, 7:41 am

    Yup, Ray, good stuff. Thank you.

  • Michelle D August 1, 2008, 5:47 pm

    Ray, you mourn with and comfort those in need on a daily basis! 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder that we can each do something, even when it seems things are already being done. And you’re right about how much formality there can be when we interact with each other. I think sometimes we are afraid to open up and show too much of our pains and weaknesses – when in fact we could gain some much-needed support and strength if we would share more of our realities with each other, instead of always putting on that “Sunday best” face.

  • spitfire August 1, 2008, 8:29 pm

    Ray, thank you. I believe we have all mourned at different times for different reasons, but some things in life, we are just not quite sure what to do & it stretches our response to those mourning to a new level.

    I would like to share my story in the hopes that it helps another & inturn, increases our understanding & ability to “mourn” with others.

    I lost my brother to suicide (shooting) almost 4 years ago, the day before my birthday. So I spent my birthday at the funeral home viewing his body. He was in the middle of a very bitter, very sad, separation & probable divorce. The details are not relevant & yet, his death mobilized an entire community against my sister in law & her business(s). Suffice to say, it was/has been very ugly.

    For me, my mourning was a very private journey that the Saviour provided much comfort & calm when called upon. I choose not to share my family tragedy with my ward family or “social” friends as I really needed to sort thru the entire thing before I could even speak about it. (of note, I live quite some distance from my family, so this was not local knowledge) Once I did, there was an outpouring of kindness & hugs. A simple squeeze of the arm as I passed in the hall or brief note (in the MAIL!!, not an email!) that said “I’m thinking about you” was great. But 2 acts stand out; after the funeral service, my family’s branch president approached me & asked if he could speak to me. He then humbly related an experience in which he had given my brother a blessing. After years of inactivity & out of desperation, my brother has gone for counsel about his situation. The branch president felt prompted to give him a blessing. At that time, he said “I saw your brother thru the Savior’s eyes, I saw your brother’s heart, it was pure & he was loved by the Lord”. Prior to that moment, we loved my brother & knew he had a good heart, but because of choices he had made, we really didn’t know where he stood with the Lord. The simple act of a worthy Priesthood holder sharing his impressions has brought our family a lifetime of comfort & peace. Fast forward a year…we had a Ward Temple Day which happen to coincide with having my brother’s temple work completed. (He held the Aaronic Priesthood but had not progressed beyond that.) I was obviously very emotional as we completed our session & sat in the Celestial Room. My stake president came over, just like you & comforted me (no hug though, he was a new SP!). The next day as he spoke in Sacrament Mtg, he shared his feelings & beliefs on comfort & peace as well as the Lord’s desire to heal our hearts. As he made these remarks, he looked directly at me (or at least it seemed like it) & spoke for quite some time. Now no one else knew what had happened the day before, but he took the time to research & provide a 25 minute talk for all practical purposes that was just for me!! I’m sure there were other members that benefitted, but as he sat down (and I was crying), he looked over & nodded to me as if to say…I feel your pain & so does the Lord.

    I choose to embrace my grief, I “rolled” with it…there were times we laughed about my brother (like right after the funeral service), which I’m sure EVERYONE thought we were ALL crazy & times I WEPT…. I never knew the meaning of “weeping” until I did nothing but weep for 3 months non-stop. Today (on the anniverary of my own mother’s death), I can laugh as I know both my brother & mother are together; 2 peas in a pod, probably getting into whatever trouble or mischief you can get into on the “other side!”

    I guess I just wanted to say that “what” to say & “what” to do in these matters is hard. Most often, those who are actually mourning don’t know WHAT to do. But if all involved turn to the Saviour & following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, you will be able to comfort those who are in need. I think it is critical to be honest, to say “I don’t know what to say or do, but how can I help?” Or, wasn’t sure what you needed but thought these cookies might taste good to you….and send the cookies about 6 months after the “event”…when the bottom falls out & the outward “comforting’ or acts of service seem to stop.

    I also think that because we never “know” what is going on in an individual’s life, we need to assume that everyone is “mourning”….to treat everyone with a extra dose of kindness & love…..

    I just would like to close with my favorite scriptures…

    Isaiah 61: 1-3
    1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim iliberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
    2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
    3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

    PS: I now celebrate my birthday on my brother’s birthday…I just can’t celebrate my b-day on the real day…it’s just not the same…

  • Michelle D August 1, 2008, 9:47 pm

    Spitfire, you have made me cry. Thank you for sharing your story. What amazing blessings your family’s BP and your SP have given you and your family! You have beautifully stated the “what” and the “how” and the “why” of mourning with others. I appreciate you sharing such a painful and personal experience in order to help others.

    I also think that because we never “know” what is going on in an individual’s life, we need to assume that everyone is “mourning”….to treat everyone with a extra dose of kindness & love…..


  • kiar August 1, 2008, 9:49 pm

    That was simply beautiful, spitfire. thank you for sharing your heart with us. I have been struggling lately and you have put some things into perspective for me. I am so glad that the Lord can see our hearts, and know what is there, when those around us don’t see it, or worse, refuse to try.
    Thank you.

  • Lewis_Family August 1, 2008, 10:12 pm

    Posted By: spitfire

    I also think that because we never “know” what is going on in an individual’s life, we need to assume that everyone is “mourning”….to treat everyone with a extra dose of kindness & love…..

    I think these are words to live by, it is so easy to judge people’s actions when in all honesty, we never know what someone is going through each day that we interact with them.

  • Lewis_Family August 1, 2008, 10:14 pm

    Isn’t it the most heart wrenching when the day comes that one truly understands what it means to weep? I remember mine…

  • facethemusic August 1, 2008, 10:24 pm

    There is too much formality and structure sometimes to how we interact with each other.

    Having been Compassionate Service Leader, I know that this is true.
    It can be easy to slip into the mode of our calling and operate out of our particular responsibility, rather than out of real charity and human compassion. We are brothers and sisters FIRST— Bishop and ward member second. RS president and sister on church assistance second. Compassionate Service Leader and sister in need second. Home Teacher/Visiting Teacher and “teachee” second.
    It’s true that we NEED to operate in the fuctions of our calling– but I think we might approach our callings differently if we thought of those we serve as our brothers and sisters FIRST, who we just happen to have a particular stewardship for. It’s so simple, yet alot to really ponder and think about.
    Spitfire- thank you for sharing your experience and feelings with us. It gives those of us who haven’t had to deal with such a family tragedy a small glimpse into the suffering that family left behind have to endure. Naturally, we can all correctly assume there’s alot of suffering, and we can try to imagine what it might be like, but it’s different to hear it from someone who’s actually experienced it.
    I remember reading an article several years ago– it must have been in the Ensign– written by a woman who’d lost her husband to an early and unexpected death. I can’t remember all the details, how it happened, etc– I just remember the impact of something she said. She talked about all the sisters coming over bringing food, taking the kids for her, doing things around the house for her— and how grateful she was for their service and help, but how even though their service was Christlike and kind, it didn’t necessarily bring her any “comfort”. Then one day, she was sitting on the couch, in the same daze she’d been in since her husband,s death, and a sister came over to help do something around the house– but instead, got a brush and just started brushing the widowed sister’s hair.
    She talked about how that “maternal’ sort of touching was what she really needed, even though she hadn’t realized it and she finally broke down and released all the pain she’d been feeling.
    Funny I remember that now after your post, Ray– but how many times have I taken someone a meal and not thought about the simpler, more tender things like that?

  • nanacarol August 2, 2008, 9:05 am

    This has been a touching subject. When you first posted Ray I did not know how to respond and I realized that the reason is that I have such a hard time showing my compassion in time of sorrow. It’s not that I am not–It’s just that I can not articulate the sorrow in my heart. We have had so many deaths in this ward in 3 years!!!! One was my best friend-Sally. I was going to the funeral but that is all I wanted to do. I could not even go over to her house when she was going to say good bye!!!!! I could not go and give her husband comfort. The morning of the funeral her husband calls and says, I called and ask you to lead the music didn’t I-it’s Sally wish that you do! If I had know ahead of time I could not have done it and would have declined. But because it was 2 hours before and it was on the program I did it. The Lord know I funtion best with no prior notice!!!!! One of the sisters I had visiting taught lost a 6 week old to SIDS. I could not be there for her. I was grateful that DS graduated from the Police Academy on the day of Sierra’s funeral so I did not have to go. The Lord knows me!!!!!
    Now here is something that is very interesting and I feel that the Lord is preparing me for something. First-my Relief Society PResident is leaving for Japan and the only instruction she has given me is to read the green pamphlet of Instructions. Those of you in Relief Sociey Presidencys and Bishopbrics know what I am referring too. Then Ray you post this post!!! I believe there is a message here. I pray I don’t have lessons to learn.
    Thanks Ray for the post and I know now that I can develope the compassion I need. Spitfire thank you for telling us your very personal and hard experience to help us learn and grow from you. I just hope and pray I can be at peace at this.

  • davidson August 2, 2008, 6:39 pm

    Well, now, Spitfire, if I could be where you are, I’d sit down and brush your hair, or wipe your tears, or anything else you would let me do. I’m crying for you. Big hugs to you.

    May we know the day when we can celebrate you and your precious brother? If you’d rather not say, I understand. Love you, Spitfire.

  • spitfire August 3, 2008, 8:51 pm

    WOW….all I can say is thank you for the love & support. It’s been 3.5 years since his death & I think of my brother every day but mostly without “weeping”….I have days that I miss him, days I would like to kick his butt (I know I just send up a speedy request to my mother & she handle’s it!) & days that I know he is busy about the Lord’s work. It is comforting that he now has his temple work completed, something that probably would not have happened in this life.

    I am so touched by your outpouring of love….I’m so hard nosed & lack so much compassion that I have a really hard time accepting service from others. But an offer to brush my hair & soothe my tears, what woman could pass that up? LOL…my hair is super short, about 1/2” all over…it would be a quick brushing..LOL

    Seriously, how kind for all of you to reach out…I really appreciate it.

    Yesterday was the anniversary of my mother’s death (8/2001)…it is funny, she & my brother were so close, as a mother & son should be, it is like they were meant to be together…

    But I have to share a moment of “black humor” (death humor) with you. You would have to know my mother…and there is a reason my nick name is Spitfire…the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree!! She was a phenomenal woman with much to offer, but she did not put up with alot of guff from anyone. Anyway, once the funeral was over & the dust had settled, my cousins & I, who KNEW my mother & my brother & his situation all said the following. “Once he got thru the veil & ran into my mother, he was probably wishing he could come back thru the veil & deal with his ex-wife!”…ok, I know that this is weird, but if that is how you deal with things, so be it. So when I pondered her passing on her anniversary, I thought about the 2 of them, moving mountains & churning out unbelievable amounts of work…both could work circles around anyone & everyone….a great heritage to have..

    I will tell you a very personal experience I had associated with his death, which I think is the most pivotal experience of all.

    After we had learned of his death & arrived at his apt., we (DH, myself & son) offered to “clean up” & clean out his place (he has his own apt due to the separation). Being a RN, I offered to go in first, DH & son have weak stomach & I had no idea what to expect, so I told them to wait in the living room. I went into his bedroom expecting the worse. Surprisely, I had the most unique experience. I felt the prescence of the Advesary stronger than I had EVER felt before. The hair on the back of my neck actually stood up on the back of my neck (HONEST!). I immediately realized that He (the Advesary) had been present when my brother took his life. My brother had the one thing the Advesary did not have, a mortal body…& so he encourage him, at his deepest, darkest moment to give up his life in mortality. I actually had to utter the words “in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.” And immediately, the prescence was gone. So, I have also had the comfort of knowing the exact circumstances under which my brother took his life. This has also brought tremendous comfort to me. The knowledge of the situaton.

    I only add this part of my story so others will know that the Advesary takes advantage of those at their lowest point & how we need to do all we can to prevent that…

    Thanx again for your love…….

  • kiar August 3, 2008, 9:18 pm

    Hugs Spitfire. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can’t even imagine how scary that had to be for you. I am so glad that you are able to find humor in places that most people can only see sadness. If that is what helps you, then use it!
    I hope that you continue to remember the feeling of comfort that you have had form the Lord, especially when you are hurting the worst. (good days and bad days, its how we work)
    We love you, and are here for you.

  • nanacarol August 3, 2008, 10:22 pm

    Spitfire-when you were relating your experience with the adversary it immediately reminded me what a mericiful Heavely Father we have!!!!! I will admit that I have been so close to the edge a time or two and you really aren’t in your right mind. Satan does have you believing that there is no hope. I can not bring myself to believe that Heavenly Father would not be merciful in this event. I am so glad that you envision your brother and mother together and happy. I am so sure that is what Heavenly Father wants you to believe.
    Like Kiar, thank you so sharing this with us. We can learn so much from one another.
    Two weeks ago in Relief Society the lesson was on handling grief. Most of you know what happened on Easter Sunday and how we lost a sweet young woman. I just did not know how the lesson would go and I was afraid for our Sisters and what they would feel. It turned into the sweetest experience. Diane, the mother in law of the young woman who died, really opened up to the room and then it opened the door for us all to open up. We all left Relief Society with such a healing in our hearts and minds. This could not have happened if Diane had not been willing to talk about her grief. She even had us laughing at one point. I am so grateful for Sisterhood and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He loves us so much!!!

  • agardner August 4, 2008, 6:53 am

    Thanks for sharing your story Spitfire, And thanks for the article Ray. Suicide has also plagued my family, several times. I’ve posted on here about it before. My cousin, 15 years old, shot himself in 1988. That was the hardest one, because he was so young, and so angry. He did it in a very angry moment and 20 years later (wow, 20 years this fall!!) most of his family is still not healed because they blame themselves for it. Then 3 years ago, another cousin, around 40 years old. And two years ago, my uncle – the father of the 15 year old. At one time, we all lived in the same ward and my mom was very close to all of them, although she had been on the “outs” with her brother for several years preceding his death. At any rate, my mom has not been the same since. It’s a horrible thing in your family when the solution of choice is suicide.

  • spitfire August 4, 2008, 8:18 pm

    Wow, agardner…I’m so sorry! It is horrendous to deal with one suicide, let alone 3. I’m so sorry for your mother; that has been the hardest part of all, it’s just not right that a child dies before a parent & your mother has had to endure the lost of many. And our parents, if your mom is like my Dad, just really won’t talk about it. I’m not sure how old your Mom is, but my Dad is 87 & their age group still has a “stigma” about suicide, it was something that was not discussed & excuses were made for their deaths i.e. “it was a hunting accident”. My heart aches for you & your family, please know you are in my prayers.

    Thank you to all of you for your kindness…..

  • Michelle D August 5, 2008, 4:55 pm

    My heart aches for all of you who deal with these “no other option” decisions. It affects so many for so long! Hugs and prayers for all of you!

  • Anna Maroni June 9, 2013, 8:05 pm

    Thats amazing and I know that the feeling of compassion from someone whether needed or not feels so much better, you did a great thing and one that needs to be repeated by all.

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