The Squeezings of my Brain Grapes.
How Do I Deal With Tragedy?

jkhayz asked you:
This week, a friend lost her baby and one of my best friends lost his mom. It’s hard for me to make sense out of all of it and I have so many questions about why and how. Any advice for working through this?

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Sis,

Before anything else, I am so sorry for each of your friends, and for you.  I’m praying for you, for your friends, and for their respective families.  And, in fact, everyone who reads this is going to take 30 seconds to pray for you and your friends right now.  And they’re going to click like on this post so you can know that you’ve got people all over the world lifting you up in prayer.

Now, you asked for advice on working through this.  The best advice I can give you is to allow yourself to grieve, and to take it one day at a time.

First of all – and all of this goes for your friends as well as you – don’t judge your responses to what’s happened.  Everyone grieves in different ways, and there’s no wrong way to do it.  You may find yourself bouncing around between being angry, feeling numb, bursting into tears, and finding everything really funny.  That’s normal.

You’ll want to very intentionally take care of yourself.  In terms of your body, get enough to eat.  Get some sleep.  Drink water. 

In terms of your emotions, huddle up with a close friend and pour your heart out.  Don’t apologize for your feelings.  Get them out in the open.  Have as many good cries as you need.  And then go to the movies or the ice cream parlor or whatever helps you relax.

In regards to your spiritual health, keep it real with God.  Don’t pretend to be strong.  Don’t pretend like you’re satisfied by trite answers (“God moves in mysterious ways!”).  Instead of that, tell God that you feel terrible and you’re mad and confused and upset and wondering where He is in the midst of all this awfulness.  Get what’s in your heart out on the table.  And then take time to be still, and remember that he is God, and that he loves you desperately.

On everything, don’t rush yourself.  Grief works at it’s own pace.  In the first few weeks, your goal should simply be to keep body and soul together – to take care of yourself.  As you begin to get your feet back under you, make a point of finding time each day to think, pray, and meditate on your grief, on what’s happened, and what it means and doesn’t mean.  And, when you’ve done that for 20 minutes or an hour – either way – put the topic away until the next day.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for more help along the way.  My ask box is open, sis.

How Do I Help My Friend Move Past Cynicism and Despair?

scottfcopeland asked you:
My friend has a kid in her class that shes friends with that i also know 17/18 and is always talking about needing a drink. He suffers with depression barely makes contact with his family. His best friend committed suicide about 6 months ago. I really want to help him but have no idea where to start.

Jed Brewer replied:

Hey Bro,

It sounds like a big part of what you’re describing here is grief.  And, so, the question becomes: how do we help people move through their process of mourning?

Step one is to build an active relationship with this person.  And that really comes down to finding ways to spend time together.  That might look like setting up a movie night at somebody’s house and making sure dude is invited and offering to give him a ride.  That might be asking him if he’d be willing to help out with a Habitat for Humanity project.  (For a lot of guys, they feel most comfortable when they’re “doing” something.)  That might be dragging him to the local rock show with you.

Either way, find a way to spend time together and begin to forge a relationship.  You don’t need to push for deep conversation, or, really, anything spiritual much at all.  What’s important is building a relationship, demonstrating that you love and care about this person, and earning trust.  (Truth is, if you haven’t demonstrated love and earned trust, you’re not in a place to do ministry.)

As you reach a point where you’ve built a trust-based relationship with dude, the main thing is to give him a safe place to express himself.  A lot of moving through a grieving process comes down to talking out how you’re feeling.  You want to give him the invitation and the opportunity to do just that.

If your friend is like most people, as he talks out his grief, he will say plenty of things that are factually and spiritually wrong.  For example: “It just feels like everything is meaningless and what’s the point.” Or… “My friend died and life just goes on and the world doesn’t even care.”  Or… “You know what, I don’t even care anymore.”

Well, look, there are big problems with each of those statements, again, both factually and spiritually.  But the trick is to not get hung up on the wrongness.  When we’re upset, when we’re grieving, when we’re venting, we say stuff we don’t particularly mean.  And if you try to fix or respond to every little thing that appears to be broken, you’ll get bogged down.

You really want to do two things.  First, just let him talk it out, and don’t judge that process.  It’ll be ugly and that’s ok.  (Bad words will likely be involved.)  For some ladies, they’ve got to “cry it out.”  Well, it’s a similar thing here.   Dude needs to be able to work through the anger and sadness and bargaining and everything else that goes into grieving.  Let him do that.

The second thing is to look for: is their a common thread to the wrongness?  In other words, he says a lot of wrong stuff, sure, but, does a trend emerge?  If you look at my three example statements above, there’s a common thread running through them, and that thread is a cynical despair. 

The thing about cynicism and despair is that they are built upon the lie that, at least for him, there is nothing good in this world, and there never could be, either.  Ministry, of course, consists of dragging that lie out into the light, and replacing it with the truth.

In this situation, the main thing would be to take your friend and expose him to truly good things.  Overload his circuits.  Get him out of the cycle of negative obsession in his brain. 

So, go volunteer together at the soup kitchen, and let him experience hope.  Go work together with Habitat for Humanity, and let him experience accomplishment.  This Christmas, go visit shut-ins together, and let him experience the pride of living out compassion.

If you can give him a safe place to express his grief, and then, gently, help him to move past the cynicism and despair, you will have changed his life utterly.

How Do You Cope When Someone You Love Passes Away From An Overdose?

My tumblr friend Jenna has had a really terrible week – a family member passed away from a drug overdose.  She wrote me to ask how to cope with that.

The first thing, Jenna, is for you to know that I, and each of us here on Tumblr, are terribly sorry for your loss.  We stand with you, and we are praying for you, and for your family.  In fact, every person who reads this is going to stop what they’re doing – right now – and take 30 seconds to lift you up in prayer, by name.

In terms of coping – or, as some people might put it, working through our grief – we need to be clear that that happens in stages.  It’s a process, and you should not try to rush through it.

Second, everyone grieves differently.  There is not a “right” way to grieve.  Be kind to yourself, and, no matter what you do, don’t judge yourself for any part of this process.

For most of us, the first step in grief is shock and disbelief.  I’ve had a number of extremely close friends pass away in the past year, and, that was my initial reaction – “that did not just happen.” 

And, then, you need to allow yourself to cry your eyes out.  The simple truth is that this moment is awful.  Nothing I – or anyone else – can say is capable of making it better.  Words fail.  In John 11:35, Jesus himself broke down and cried over the death of a friend.  If the Son of God is permitted a good sob, so are you.  In fact, you are permitted as many of them as it takes.

Just to bust myself out here, when my sister Angel died this spring, she had an aneurysm, and was on life support for about three days.  When the call finally came that she had gone home, I sobbed without being able to speak for an hour.  And I’m a damn manly dude.

I brought up not judging yourself because, you may find that your emotions jump around a lot.  That, at one moment you feel like crying, and the next you feel like laughing, and the next you feel totally numb.  This is normal, and OK.

For the next couple weeks, my very strong advice to you would be to simply take care of yourself, to not try to do too much in the way of heavy lifting in your life, and just make it from day to day.

A few weeks down the line, you’ll want to look at this as “grief work”, and work is the key word there – that there is something for you to work through.  And the right way to do that is a little bit at a time.  Each day, you take your grief off of the shelf, look at it, think it through, pray it through, and then, when it’s been 30 minutes, or an hour, or however long you’re up for, you put it right back on the shelf and leave it there for the next day.

When you reach that stage of working it through bit by bit, one of the main things you’re going to want to work towards is answering the question, “What box do I put this in?”  In other words, how do I, in a big-picture, overarching sense, think about my loved one’s life and passing.  Having a big picture sense of what happened, what it meant, and what it didn’t mean should help a lot in coming to a point of peace and acceptance.

Along the way, you will have up days and down days.  That’s ok.  Don’t hesitate to rely on your friends, both at home and here on Tumblr.  My ask box is always open, and I’m always happy to pray for and talk through stuff with a cool sister like Jenna.

One last thing.  I hate to bring this up, but I’m guessing it’s something that’s bothering you.  There are Christians out there with very weird views on suicide, and they tend to extend those ideas to drug overdoses.  Here’s the deal: suicide is a sin, yes, but no different a sin, and no worse a sin than any other.  It is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ just like everything else, and anybody who claims otherwise can meet me and Jesus in the parking lot.

We love you, Jenna.