Comfort in Lament–Soul Care When You’re Grieving
“I called on your name, LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: Do not ignore my cry for relief. You came near whenever I called you; you said, ‘Do not be afraid.’ You championed my cause, LORD; you redeemed my life.” (Lamentations 3:55-58 CSB)
These are the words of a poet, most likely the prophet Jeremiah. In this book of the Bible aptly titled, there are five chapters of pure poetry written almost entirely as a Hebrew alphabetic acrostic. It’s the poet’s expression of brokenness concerning a nation in exile. More specifically, he’s lamenting over a wayward people suffering the consequence of disobedience, having turned their backs on the One true God, whose faithful love keeps them from perishing, whose mercies are new every morning (3:22-23).
Yes, great is His faithfulness!
In a word, this weeping poet is grieving.
Grief. Something we all experience in one way or another, at some time or another. It’s the emotional response after loss.
- Loss of a loved one.
- Loss of a job.
- Loss of health.
- Loss of hope
Author Edie Melson knows a thing or two about grief, having experienced significant loss in her lifetime–the loss of her father to Alzheimer’s; the loss of a friend to suicide and another who was murdered; the recent loss of her daughter-in-law who passed away from injuries sustained in a farming accident.
I first met Edie at a Christian writers conference at The Cove some years ago. More recently I was introduced to her Soul Care series when my name was randomly chosen in a drawing at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference, of which Edie is co-director. My gift? Another book of hers, Soul Care for Writers.
Edie has written her third in the series, released just yesterday, from personal experience. Soul Care When You’re Grieving is her heart poured out on the page. She wrote it for each of us who grieve, for people like my dear friend Nancy.
I’ve known Nancy Schmitz for over a quarter of a century, having attended the same church while we lived in Greenville, SC. She babysat our sons when they were littles, and I was her oldest daughter’s 5th grade teacher. Despite the miles that have separated us for more than two decades now, we’ve stayed close, picking up right where we left off–a sign of true friendship.
Nancy, too, knows a thing or two about grief. She lost her husband Alan a little over three years ago on March 14, 2019 and son Jon Kyle just a year ago on September 24, 2020. Their absence aches every day, and despite the blessings that remain in her two daughters, her sons-in-law, and grandchildren, the vacancies left when these loved ones passed can’t ever be filled.
SCWYG is a book written by Edie for someone like Nancy. Packed with personal experience, scripture passages, and prayers, each section ends with activities one might complete to aid in healing. What better way to introduce to the world SCWYG‘s tender words than to share an interview between its author and a reader? Using portions of the weeping prophet’s poetry in Lamentations, I facilitated a dialogue between them.
Allow me to introduce to you two beautiful souls, both who grieve. It is my prayer that you will be blessed by them.
Comfort in Lament–Soul Care When You’re Grieving
~~An Interview with Edie Melson and Nancy Schmitz~~
1) Nancy–In the first chapter of Lamentations, Jeremiah laments over Jerusalem, writing, “How she sits alone… She who was great among the nations has become like a widow” (1:1 CSB). This is, of course, a simile and is allegorical in nature, but I imagine you can relate.
Q: Can you please share how suddenly finding yourself a widow caused disillusionment, thwarting your expectations and causing you to grieve, not only the death of your husband but also the death of your dreams?
A: It was a huge shock. The idea of being a widow at 58 was something I just couldn’t grasp. I guess I grieved all the things that would never be, all the missed possibilities. All were gone. Also, I grieved for my oldest granddaughter who was four at the time and absolutely adored him.
2) Edie–Lam. 1:2 says, “She weeps bitterly during the night, with tears on her cheeks. There is no one to comfort her…” (CSB). While we know God is always with us, you expressed beautifully in your book how there were times when you felt alone in your grief, even chose to be alone in your grief.
Q: What encouragement would you offer Nancy, to enable her to claim the comfort God promises and to press in to, receive from, God’s people?
A: It’s important that we understand when we want to be alone and when we desire to be with others. As an introvert, I often do much of my processing alone, but there were times I truly desired to be–needed to be–with others. One thing I’ve found that’s very important is that people can’t read minds. When they say they want to help, they really do, but you have to reach out. Sometimes that was as simple as me sending my accountability group a text expressing, “Hard day. Please pray for me.” They were always there to help, but I had to let them know. Most importantly, don’t question whether or not you’re grieving in a right or wrong way. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ and the only One who matters is God, and He’s concerned about the process.
Q: What activity(s) might you encourage someone like Nancy to do to help ease grief?
A: Joy can be discovered when serving others, so find a way to help someone else. It takes the focus off you and your pain, even if for only a little while.
3) Nancy–Unexpectedly, only two years after the passing of your husband your son Jon Kyle passed away in a similar manner. Your sweet boy loved Jesus and served him, but he struggled with anxiety and depression, which worsened due to the trauma of having lost his father.
The weeping prophet writes, “Her children have gone away as captives before the adversary” (Lam. 1:5 CSB). This is speaking of God’s children, His chosen people, being led away by an enemy. From things I’ve heard you share since Jon Kyle’s passing, I know you believe our greatest enemy, Satan, deceived Jon Kyle, resulting in hopelessness, which led to his suicide. Satan used depression to stir in your son feelings of despair.
Q: What have you found to be especially helpful that you might share with those who either struggle with depression or who are witnessing a loved one who is struggling?
A: First, I would say the countless friends and family who would tell me they were praying for me. Many times I truly felt God’s presence. There is no other explanation for the peace I’d feel. And support groups, too, have been helpful–especially an online group I’m part of–three ladies, in particular, with whom I regularly communicate. They’ve become very close friends.
4) Edie–In SCWYG, you offer many wonderful activities that help one work through grief.
Q: What wisdom and / or activity would you specifically suggest for someone like Nancy, who believes in the reality of an enemy who, as I Peter 5:8 warns, “is seeking whom he may devour”?
A: First, pray for your family. There’s such power in our prayers for our children. Also, we need to be in the Word daily. Not necessarily large portions but simple, even short passages. God’s truth is our sword to defeat the lies of the enemy. I’ve found that there’s healing power in just reading the Bible. It’s been so powerful in my healing process. Also keeping a prayer journal where you can write out messy, heartfelt prayers. It’s a great place, too, to jot down the passages that speak particularly to your heart.
5) Nancy–We read what seems to be a cry of self-pity, even anger with God, when the poet writes, “Is this nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see! Is there any pain like mine, which was dealt out to me, which the Lord made me suffer on the day of His burning anger” (Lam. 1:12 CSB)?
Q: Can you share any particular moments when you experienced self-pity or times when you shook your fists at God in anger?
A: Early on, I felt that I must have done something and was being punished. I can say these feelings were frequent, especially self-pity, and I still feel this way sometimes. As you know, there is something special in the love from a son to his mom. But I know I was chosen by God to be Jon’s mother. It could have been anyone, but God chose me! At first I thought He chose me to bear this pain as punishment, but now I better understand I was chosen by Him to bear this pain as the result of having loved my boy. And, despite the heartache, I would never want it any other way.
6) Edie–In the section of your book “Letting Go Of Anger and Choosing Peace,” you talk about, for you, anger often coming because of the lack of control you feel.
Q: Can you share anything from your personal experience that might be helpful for Nancy? What activity from your book might best help her work through this?
A: I learned years ago when one of our sons was in the military that control is a pipe dream. We really never have it entirely. As one who likes to have control, the lack of it felt, at times, all-consuming. I had to remind myself often that, although I may not have control, I know the One who does, and I can trust Him. I had to consciously choose to do things that reinforced this truth. One activity is to write ‘left’ and ‘right’ equally on torn pieces of paper. Place the words in a pouch or a bowl, and go for a walk. Periodically, pull a piece out and turn in the direction it tells you. Do this until all the pieces are gone. Then journal about the experience of having no control of the journey, telling of the beauty you perhaps experienced despite not controlling the direction you travelled. You still made it home. You were never really lost.
7) Nancy–The weeping poet whose words we read in Lamentations expresses deep grief when he writes, “I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath. He has driven me away and forced me to walk in darkness instead of light…” (3:1-2 CSB). Then we read some verses later, “Yet I call too mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end” (3:21-22).
Q: How have you experienced, despite deep grief, the mercies of the Lord, and how has God enabled you to better understand the suffering of others, which is empathy?
A: Again, God reminded me that I was chosen–even having me randomly choose this word as a theme for 2020 as part of a campaign at my church. Where I thought I was chosen for suffering, being punished after Jon Kyle’s passing, I came to understand that I was chosen to bear this pain, which came as the result of having been chosen–yes, privileged!–to be Jon Kyle’s mom, which is something I would never change, even with all the heartache. Furthermore, I’ve been chosen to come alongside others who’ve suffered, are suffering. God has placed several in my path at my job who are also experiencing grief after loss.
8) Edie–You mention a time not long after your daughter-in-law’s passing when God called you to come alongside a grieving friend whose son passed away after an automobile accident. You expressed that you weren’t sure you were ready to help another when you were still struggling so with grief.
Q: What enabled you to step into your friend’s pain despite your own? Finally, what advice would you offer Nancy as she continues to walk this way of grief that light might shine in the dark places?
A: Only God. As I wrote to Him in “A Prayer When Life Forces You Back” (p. 97, SCWYG), My heart is broken. Show me how I can bear another’s pain… Could it be that You are calling me here not just for her, but to help me continue to heal…? I see Your provision even in this difficult situation. Amen.
The advice I’d give to Nancy and anyone who grieves is be in the Word daily. And journal. Find ways to give thanks. Keep a list of things you’re grateful for. This will shine light into the darkness as you walk through grief.
And I’ll end the way I started…
Dearest Healer of our broken hearts, thank you for Your Word–a lamp to our feet, a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). May Edie’s book bring comfort to a hurting world. Continue to heal her heart, Nancy’s, and all those who are grieving. Help us remember that, as You said in Your Sermon on the Mount, “Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 HCSB).
**Soul Care When You’re Grieving is available now, at Amazon (click for direct access) and other book retailers.**