When Pastor Gordon’s dad passed away a few years ago, he left memories of a conflicted relationship with his immediate family. When people offered their condolences to Pastor Gordon, he wasn’t sure how to respond. Pastor Gordon says he was grateful for people’s kindness when they said, “You must miss your dad.” But he didn’t know how to give a truthful response because the relationship was difficult.
After a time, Pastor Gordon learned to respond in this way: “Thanks for your kindness – I had a difficult relationship with my Dad, so it’s hard to sort out all I’m feeling.” He found that people were gracious about his response, even if it took them by surprise.
Pastor Gordon’s story illustrates the complex nature of grieving; not all people have had a positive relationship with their parents. And because of that, the bereaved might not have a “typical” reaction to offers of condolence. As caregivers, if we are prepared for a response such as Pastor Gordon’s, we’ll be ready to be there and listen.
Pastor Gordon goes on to say that he eventually found a way to honor both the good memories of his childhood along with the difficult ones as an adult. “I love my Dad, and it is difficult” he says. Yet he’s found a certain measure of peace and adds he’s found, “the grace to live not in pretend[ing] or bitterness, but in honesty and gratitude.”
To read more about Pastor Gordon Wiersma’s thoughts on grieving the loss of someone with whom you had a complicated relationship, read A Space for Grace in a Complicated Relationship.