Helping a Mourning Parent

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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Helping a Mourning Parent

Post by lotsofgray » 11 Dec 2017, 21:03

I need your help with some ideas of how to approach another parent who has just been told by their returned missionary daughter that she is now engaged to another woman, and who has broadly communicated her sexual preference on social media. Most other members in the stake follow the girl’s feed on Facebook and Snapchat, and now know broadly about this decision. My wife and I know what it feels like to blame yourself for the decisions of your children using their agency. I have 3 of 4 children who reached mission age and declined to serve. To this day I don’t have this worked out myself in terms of feeling up to par or the result of a home/parenting deficiency from the church perspective. I have tried to think of every way possible to #1-let the parents know that we know and care (empathy), and #2-they are not alone in this and many others are having similar experiences (sympathy).

The mother I refer to here has completely withdrawn from church activities and any contact with any of us that truly care, understand, and have had the same or similar experiences.

I have a mental block for some reason about how to even make contact with her and not offend by acknowledging what we know, and communicating how others truly are and have been in the same position. I just can’t think of the words to use directly or in a card or email to not intrude, offend, or offer unsolicited sharing.

I hope someone out there has felt to do this at some point – I just need the right words and tone to not make someone feel worse than they already do. I know how I feel that no one can relate and don’t know how to address it with us.

Hoping you have ideas on how to communicate this.

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Mr. Sneelock
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Re: Helping a Mourning Parent

Post by Mr. Sneelock » 11 Dec 2017, 22:48

Hi lotsofgray,

I have not been in that exact situation but I am a trained crisis counselor so maybe some of my thoughts can be useful to you. My advice would be to focus on listening to and validating the pain she is feeling without trying to compare it to what others have been through. The first thing people usually need when they are having an emotional crisis is to feel like they are heard and reassured that they are not crazy for feeling the way they do. It sounds like you already have a sincere empathy and concern for this person so I would just start there.
. . . beauty for ashes . . .

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Re: Helping a Mourning Parent

Post by mom3 » 12 Dec 2017, 02:28

I am not a trained counselor (Mr. Sneelock has great insight), I would write her a note. Something you can mail or stick in her door. In the note tell her that you miss her, maybe even share your own struggle so she has a sense that other parents have similar struggles (and that she isn't alone), let her know you are available any time to listen.

She may not be ready to respond, but if I had received something like that I would be able to process in the privacy of my grief, and I might feel some healing or courage from it. Maybe you will be her first outlet when she is ready.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: Helping a Mourning Parent

Post by Roy » 12 Dec 2017, 11:28

I encourage you to do something. I remember a coworker who lost a sister in death. I did not know what to say or how to respond and so I said nothing.

Death came to my own home maybe a year later. After taking some time to process I felt that my inaction towards my coworker was motivated in part by my own lack of comfort/fear with the subject. Because of that discomfort and not knowing what to say, I avoided him. I went to that coworker (now a year later) and told him that I am sorry. I am sorry for his loss and I am sorry that my fear kept me from saying it earlier.

To tie this to what your situation. I would do something to let you know that you care about her and that she is not alone. You do not care if she comes back to church activities. A note, a casserole, a plate of cookies (it is x-mas time after all) - something to start the conversation that you care and are available to listen if and when she is ready.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: Helping a Mourning Parent

Post by dande48 » 12 Dec 2017, 20:35

Hey LoG,

It's a tough situation, I don't fully understand. But relating this to other experiences...
-Where the person doesn't want to talk about it
-Where they don't want the attention, because "the normal outside" is unbarable
-Where they've already given up on the inside
-Where they feel so worthless, they can't bare the thought of anyone telling them otherwise

It's tough when you try to help someone, and all that someone feels is hurt because of it. The best way I've found to help, is to treat the person like they're a good friend. Invite them over for dinner, but tell them you've been "experimenting in the kitchen", and want to see how they like your new "concoction" before releasing it on the public ;) . Or figure out something they are proud of or enjoy, and ask their advice on it. Make plans for the future, give them a book to "borrow", or even tell them "See you tomorrow!", can make a world of difference. If a friend feels like a worthless failure, rather than telling them they're not, show them how much they mean to you. Just be sure you don't do it out of pity. Genuinely show them how much they mean to you.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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