Dear Karen: My sister’s son was involved in a gang and was killed 4 years ago. She has not moved forward in her life and is still so crushed by this tragedy. She nor he is/was a believer so it is hard for me to give her comfort. I just let her know I love her but as far as heaven there is no hope. What can I share with her to help her to move forward and try to maybe use this to help others.
Dear Peggy, I am so sorry about the tragedy in your sister’s life. I will continue to think and pray for her and about your question: “What can I share with her to help her move forward and try to maybe use this to help others?” Following is my answer right now. (The ideas are from individuals who have suffered and have offered their advice.)
First, it may be helpful to remember that the grieving process (the length of it and the intensity) varies for each individual, and if the death is sudden, unexpected and a violent death, the grief process may extend into a longer time span. However, since the death of your sister’s son happened 4 years ago, and if she has not moved forward–even in small ways– in her life, perhaps she would benefit from seeing a grief counselor. A counselor could help her cope better with her problem and also encourage and help her set goals for personal growth.
Also extremely important is a support system for her. Are you and your sister close? Are you friends? When someone is suffering , she or he needs someone who will listen non judgmentally to one’s negative as well as positive feelings. Perhaps your sister needs someone, like yourself, who will patiently hear over and over again all the feelings, struggles and conflicts which she is experiencing. For some suggestions on how to love and care for someone who is suffering, go to the Caregiving Basics page on this site.
Once I read, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Perhaps the best way, right now, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with your sister, is to show her in your actions that you love/care for her. Then maybe one day she will ask you about your faith. You were right on track when you said, “Maybe she can use her tragedy to help others.”
When my friend’s son was killed in a biking/automobile accident, she suffered and still suffers . . .but when she started reaching out to other families whose children died, she found a purpose and a “hope” for the future. My friend also started baking blueberry muffins and taking them every week to a nursing home. She was welcomed there and developed new relationships. She found a new reason to get up and to get going. A grief counselor, Robert Zucker, also advises, “One strategy for grappling with persistent pain is filling up the emptiness in a positive way. Invest in meaningful work, perhaps volunteering or even working in a bereavement program or hospice. Some establish a foundation or scholarship program in memory of the a loved one.” So, do you know what her gifts and talents are? What does she do well? If you know the answers to these questions, can you or someone else invite her to use her gifts/talents in a worthwhile project?
It has been proven my many that if you forget yourself for a little while (and in this case–all the sorrow and grief and anger) and reach out and help another person or persons, the grieving person, will also be helped. You and your sister will be in my prayers.
If any of our radio audience has some advice for Peggie, please share by sending your advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peggy: Thank you for caring. Thank you for sharing your concerns with the radio audience and with me.