For years I went along on this path called life and thought that I was helping my fellow man. Sure, I am my own worst critic, but I would say that at times I unintentionally caused harm, rather than a strong arm of support. In this age of post COVID (Yes, I choose to go with the term "post") we are realizing globally that the effects of shut-down were very detrimental to many peoples psyche and mental health. I am not trying to debate what was right or wrong, or what side of the political aisle you are on, but rather the fact that what was done is in the past, and we are now confronted with cleaning up the effects in the present. Many people need help in life, and don't know how to ask for it. Somehow we have this stigma of thinking that there are certain topics that are off limits, hence our increase in untreated mental health. I am not talking about some crazed shooter that you might see on the news, I am talking to you, and what is going on in your personal life.
Allow me to address the first topic of how to ask for help. Pride and Fear are our biggest road blocks in this area. Pride in that we don't really feel like there is a problem that needs to be addressed; and Fear in that we are afraid of what people will say or think about us. I am so over worrying what people think of me. Please don't misinterpret this as one who doesn't have social etiquette, and would rather lead his life within an anarchy bubble. Quite the contrary my friends. I am a law abiding citizen that respects the social norms set in place around me. I just choose not to be so concerned about who likes what on social media, or what somebody might say behind my back. Once you get over the pride and fear of asking for help, then the confidence phase kicks in where you realize that you are broken and need somebody to walk alongside of you. I have never been suicidal, but I will never forget February 9th, 2021. It was my wife's birthday and just about 5 weeks after my son David passed away. After taking my wife and daughter out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (I love their food, but way too many menu options), I remember falling pretty quickly down the rabbit hole of depression. There was no alert or notice as to what was happening, it just happened. For those that have suffered from depression, you know that it sneaks up at the most inopportune times, and you have no control over it. Later that night I went out to the cemetery in the dark to be at my sons grave. At this point it was just raw dirt with no grass or headstone. I remember laying down on the ground next to his grave and sensing satan sidle up next to me. I remember that old snake whispering in my ear that it would be a whole lot easier if I just got the gun out of my SUV and ended it all. I very briefly entertained the idea and concept, but was also discerning enough to know the source of that voice. I did not want to leave my family behind nor give up on living. I tell you all of this to say that in todays day and age this is a taboo topic that we don't talk about enough. Many people have had these thoughts, and unfortunately many have followed through with it as well.
That night I very hastily took my phone and called my best friend. I told him where I was and what my thought process was like. He asked me if he could come and pick me up and talk. We ended up talking at length that night, but I also made sure to tell my wife, brother, and mom what had happened. The reason I told them was not for shame, but for accountability. You see if you have these deep dark rooted secrets that fester like stinking skeletons in your closet, then you can never let the light of day shine on your life. God does not wish that we have these skeletons, not to mention a door on the closet to begin with. However, I want you to understand and make the distinction that I am a God fearing man. Just because I had those thoughts does not mean that I had veered away from God. It means I am human. I don't want to sway off course too much theologically, but promise to stay in my lane with my original thought process of establishing how to ask for help, and how to give help.
Allow me to move on to the next segment of giving help to those who are hurting and in need. We all know that certain someone who is hurting. We know it and everyone else does, but the individual sometimes refuses to admit they are hurting and need of help. There is not much you can do for that individual but be present, continue to love on them, and pray for them. It is not always essential for somebody that is hurting to always be in a position to receive help. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but my point is that they might not be portraying a stubbornness about them, but rather don't know they need help. Men are probably the worst in this area, because society has programmed them to believe they are macho, and crying or any sign of emotion is a weakness. I can tell you that if that is the case, this 6'7" 325 pound man is a wimp, as I cry most days. I would however present the true and viable viewpoint that a sign of strength (no matter your sex) is the ability and essence of being able to express vulnerability.
Today I was interviewed on K-Love by Skip and Amy on their morning show. For those of you who don't know what K-Love is, it is a nationally syndicated Christian radio station broadcast out of Nashville. The question raised was "How do you give help to those who have just suffered a tragedy and incredible loss?" How fitting for that topic and question, especially after my previous blog, and for such a large request from my friends to speak on how to give help to someone who is hurting. There are all kinds of hurts and tragedies. I fully understand that not all of them are death related, or quite as difficult as losing a child. I can however only speak from that angle, so I will share what I have learned in the past 16 months.
1) It is not important to know what to say to a person who is grieving. They do not want to know the perfect scripture verses, or the promises of the Bible. Just be there for them. If not physically, check in with them periodically and just love on them.
2) Let them know that they are not alone. Loneliness is one of the most smothering factors in grief. There is a common phrase in the grief world where we look at somebody else who is going through a shared grief and say "YOU GET IT." Even though you might not understand or get it, just be there for them. 6 months after the loss, everybody has retreated from the meal train, gift cards, wind chimes, etc. Continue to be there for them.
3) This is a life long journey. We never get over it, we just learn to live with it. The load doesn't get lighter, I just get stronger through God's help and those around me. Nobody else can carry this cross down the road for me, it is something I have to carry. However, it is sure easier to know there are fellow brothers and sisters walking alongside me.
4) Study up and do some research on how to support those who are grieving. Offer to go to a support group with your friend or family member who is grieving and needs help. It is hard for you to empathize if you haven't personally gone through the loss, but you can sure sympathize by educating yourself.
5) Be careful how "churchy" and religious you get with your comments. I am a strong man of God, and I can assure you that all of the scripture verses and promises that people would quote to me didn't do a lick of good. I had a firm foundation in Christ prior to entering into this wilderness, but just like Jesus in the wilderness for 4o days, I have had to come to grips personally on how not to be bitter at God, and to relax back into His arms of knowing that He has got this, and has never left or forsaken me. I know I am treading on thin ice with all my believer friends on this one, as this is how we are programmed, but take it from me, a lot of times it can do more harm than good. You can pray these prayers over your loved one from afar and let the Holy Spirit do the revealing to them.
6) Absence is detrimental and does more harm than good. I left this for last, but it is the most important out of all of them. Please hear me loud and clear. I understand that it is uncomfortable to offer help to a hurting person. You are afraid of saying the wrong thing, and you feel like you are walking on egg shells. You are afraid that you might say something that "triggers" them. Please know that there are triggers, but those that are hurting are immersed already in the grief and hurt. Your absence and shyness hurts them way more. I have had friends of mine turn the other way when they saw me at the store, and when confronted, state that they just didn't know what to say. Look, there is grace, and hopefully the recipient of your help will be able to grant grace and grow into kindness. With that being said, shoulder some of that weight and do what you must by being present.
I hope that this sheds a little insight on what it means to be able to ask for help, and to also be on the side of giving help. The crazy thing is that most days I wear both of these hats. It is not necessarily a one or the other. Most days I need help and have learned and matured into knowing how to ask for help. In the same day inevitably, God will put somebody in my path that needs help, and this worn down broken lug of a man can once again be used by our maker to pour into and help rescue another soul. Will you get comfortable learning how to throw out that life preserver overboard, while at the same time realizing that you might be treading water yourself and stretch your hand up to catch it as it whistles through the air?