This summer, in one week, I had several unconnected deaths of my friends or friends loved ones. Death is not easy to talk about, it only happens once to each of us.
I heard a real and hard hitting statistic from a doctor friend of mine "100% percent of people die." Just let that sit with you for a second.
When someone dies it is never easy. Even when someone lived an amazing a long life, those who loved them still miss them. And if that person dies "young" then it is even harder.
This brings me to what I wanted to say today: Things people need to stop saying when people die.
As a minister, I believe that the church has good news about death, "this isn't the end!" But too often I hear really bad expressions of this truth that make it sound a lot less like good news. So here are a few in no particular order (all of these are real things I have heard):
1. God needed another angel.
First off, there is nothing in scripture that states that when we die we become angels. Humans and angels seem to be two separate things altogether. Second, saying that God took, needed, or had anything to do with the death of someone can cause those grieving to be very angry at God and for good reason. If God does anything when a loved one passes, God sits with us and cries with us.
2. Everything happens for a Reason.
This is sort of connected to #1. By saying everything happens for a reason, you are saying God makes everything happen: wars, murder, cancer, death, everything...
I don't know about you, but while I believe God is all powerful, free will opens the door for people to make their own choices. I don't believe that God gave my friend's sister cancer that caused her death in her early 20s. Everything does NOT happen for a reason, but God can use anything for a reason.
3. Don't Reason.
Sometimes death happens unexpected and without understanding. This will leave the family with enough questions as it is, do not add more to them. Don't try to reason. or explain what happened. Don't think out loud about what might have been done to prevent death. While it might help you process, don't put it on the loved ones who are left. Which brings us to our final "Thing not to say or do when someone dies."
4. Don't think it is about you.
Death makes everyone uncomfortable. When one of your friends loses a loved one, it is easy for us to feel sad and uncomfortable too. While this is perfectly normal, don't try to deal with your uncomfortable in the presence of the family or friends. Find other places to work through it. The #1 reason we say things we shouldn't when people die is we are trying to make ourselves feel better. Please stop.
So if this is what we should stop saying, what can we do or say?
1. Avoid saying anything.
Just express that you're sorry and that you are there for their loved ones. Often no words are needed, and your mere presence without words may be more comforting than anything you can say.
2. Share stories about the deceased.
Share the amazing stories you remember of the one lost. Remind the loved ones how special that person was. Stories help us remember the person and the love that shared.
3. Offer a specific way to help.
This one often looks like bringing the family meals when they are grieving, and this is great! We use a website called TakeThemAMeal.com . It is a very easy way to set up different people bringing food to a family during the grieving process. While, food is great, if you know other specific things to take the load off of them like walking a dog, helping with a carpool, or anything else that would provide them more space to breathe.
Death is hard, but if we follow some of these ideas, hopefully it will be less painful to all involved.
What other ideas do you have?
Recently I want to see the movie Tomorrowland. I have heard mixed reviews on this film with one of the critiques being that it was "too hopeful", which perked my interest even more. SPOILER ALERT.
In this film, we learn that all the most creative, inventive, and intelligent people have found a way to travel to a parallel universe where they can create and invent without the distraction of politics and war. They have designed amazing things that we couldn’t even imagine, things of tomorrow, hence “Tomorrowland.”
George Clooney’s character, Frank Walker, is one of the creatives and he invents a way to see backwards and forwards into the past and future. In doing so, he discovers that the world is coming to an end soon, very soon.
We are then asked the question: “If you could be told with absolute certainty the day you would die, would you want to know?” An intriguing question for sure.
We learn later that Hugh Laurie’s character, David Nix, the leader of Tomorrowland has decided to show the world the oncoming destruction so that they might see it and change their ways. The problem is that when they see this, instead of doing everything to change it, they just accept it and continue on.
He then give us this speech: “When presented with the idea of certain destruction, do you know why people chose not to do anything to fix it, because certain destruction asks nothing of us TODAY. We are willing to accept destruction instead of running towards HOPE because hope takes change and hard work, and it is easier to just do nothing.”
I think that this is a great critique of our world. It is easier to just keep the status quo rather than to do something to change it.
But the movie doesn’t end there, there is one hopeful teen, Casey Newton, played by Britt Robertson, who isn’t willing to give up. She always hangs onto HOPE and does so in such a way that it inspires those around her, including Frank Walker. Through her hopeful spirit and the work of several others, they are able to change things and save the world.
It is through these HOPEFUL dreamers that are willing to do the hard work that things change.
I Wonder: When is a time that you ran towards HOPE and did the hard work? How can one inspire others to do the same and change the world?