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Friends Help us to Heal

Posted: February 7, 2017

I call it my “Black Friday.” Throughout the three weeks of my husband Jack’s death and funeral, my house was a revolving door with family, friends, neighbours and super sized casseroles. Then the day came when I drove my last child to the Kelowna airport and walked through my front door. Empty house. Alone. Then came Friday. The sky was heavy with winter gloom and grief stabbed at me with knives that shook me to the core. Never before had I experienced the depth of such pain, darkness and “aloneness”.

I was startled when my cell phone rang and then heard the gentle and loving voice of a dear friend. Once I heard the emphatic tone in her voice all I did was sob. And sob. She didn’t try to console me, fix me or make things better. She simply cried with me and then listened. Once I was able to formulate words I told her, “Do you know that today you gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give me? You cried with me. You shared my pain. You allowed God to reach out to me and obeyed the command in the Bible that says, ‘Mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15). With your empathy you allow me to move out of my grief and help me to heal. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. “

            God created us to be in loving and intimate relationships.

This is a command that God put into place so that we could be His hands and feet to bring hope, healing and joy into this world. Loving friendships actually help us to live healthier lives. A landmark Health Study from the Harvard Medical School stated this: When the researchers looked at how well women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the faces of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. [1]

However, in the last three months I have discovered that not everyone has the gift of empathy. In fact, I believe there are two camps of compassion and here is what they feel like. Imagine these two camps taking place in a cave.

Camp 1- Sympathy. I am alone in my cave when I hear a voice outside. “Heidi, I am so sorry for your loss. I will pray for you. If there is anything I can do please call. Then they throw in a piece of bread and walk off. Their heart is in the right place, but they probably don’t know how to do more or different.

Camp 2 – Empathy. I am alone in my cave when I hear a noise outside. Then I hear, “Heidi I know you are in there. I’m coming in.” Then they walk into the cave, make me a cup of tea, sit alongside me, listen to my broken heart and then pray for me. They listen without fixing me, offering me a glorious future or saying they understand.

Each Camp is a Gift

God has poured His love out on me across North America and I am incredibly grateful for each expression of love. But research is right, it is the “close friends”, the ones that sit and cry, bring soup, fix my microwave, offer meals, sit and listen and bring hope. God is using them to heal my heart and they are sticking with me on this tumultuous and mysterious journey. After three months my comforters have not left me. I am eternally grateful.

[1] “Melissa Kaplan’s Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases”, UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women: An Alternative to Fight or Flight, 2002 Gale Berkowitz, (Last updated December 19, 2005), http:/www.anapsid.org/cnd/gender/tendfend/html



Posted in: alone, death, empathy, friends, Friendship, funeral, grief, listen, pain, pray, relationships, sympathy

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