Remembering Kobe, comforting kids, and the work of grieving

We were driving through West Virginia, headed back from visiting our middle son at college in Kentucky. Our youngest, Josiah, suddenly called. “Mom, Dad, did you hear? Kobe Bryant just died in a helicopter crash.” Similar to everyone, we were stunned. I must have said “Oh no, Jos’—that’s so sad” at least a dozen times in the next two minutes. In the hours to come, we learned further details, including the horrific loss of his daughter, Gianna, and seven others.

Such moments are surreal for everyone. When we got home mid-evening, our family conversations continued, including prayers for the Bryant family. Such a tragedy is so much for a sports-loving fourteen-year-old and his friends to process. (Good grief, it’s a lot for parents to process as well.) So many feelings, so much sorrow and heartache.

I’m struck by the reality: there is a collective work about grieving that we do better together. Perhaps you remember 9-11, or the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion, or even JFK’s assassination. In our shock at such events, we abruptly pause. We inhale the sudden sting and exhale our angst with tears. I am moved in such moments that we always have the opportunity to either duck and hide, push away the conversations, run from the pain, or we can collectively work through it and let something new and good happen inside us. I am convinced that if we boldly, courageously embrace the work of such collective grieving, we can actually grow stronger.

When facing grief, both our own and others’, it’s important we resist every urge—both self-induced and pushed by others—to rush our responses. Quick fixes and pithy spiritual platitudes are rarely productive. Don’t hurry yourself to get over your grief, and be very careful what you say to friends and family when they are experiencing loss. H. Norman Wright cites a number of our well-intended but too-often unhelpful, potentially even pain-producing clichés.

Big boys don’t cry.

You’ve just got to get ahold of yourself.

Cheer up.

Time will heal.

Life goes on.

This is the work of the devil.

Count your blessings.

God never gives us more than we can handle.

I know just how you feel.

If there is anything I can do, just call me.[1]

We dare not hurry ourselves and loved ones to quickly process grief, to “just get over it,” and get on with life. But we can choose to get back up, step forward, and trust God with bigger hope. When you are ready, you can choose to walk a fresh path. You can focus on God’s provision for your brighter future. You can boldly embrace your fresh start toward a deeper faith—an overcoming, hope-filled trust to match your deepest grief.

Blocking and shoving

In their original, sidesplitting blockbuster, Shrek and Donkey are camping outside, guarding Princess Fiona as she sleeps in the cave. Staring at the stars and moon, Donkey decides to play therapist and confront Shrek about his threat to build a wall around his swamp to keep everyone out. In their terse, back-and-forth interchange, Donkey makes the now famous and oft-quipped statement (at least it’s quoted often in the Pletcher house), “You cut me deep, Shrek. You cut me real deep!” With a sullen face and folded arms, Shrek abruptly rolls to his other side. Donkey gets in his face. “You’re blocking.” “No, I’m not!” Shrek adamantly denies as he rolls to his other side. “Yes, you are!” Donkey retorts.

Remembering Kobe serves as a healthy reminder for us all. Grieving can and should be cathartic. How often do we self-protect, block others, or otherwise try to hide what we’re really feeling, unwilling to let others see us grieve? Especially with our kids or at the office, in the shop, or out on the production floor—how preposterous would that be, to let others know you are grieving?

Kristin Brown courageously ponders four principles for better grieving. She urges—

Don’t feel ashamed to show your grief. You may be worried about crying at odd times, like in the middle of a meeting. Give yourself permission to be a little less poised.

Avoid making major decisions while grieving. Some decisions may be unavoidable. But for those that seem optional, it’s best to wait until your thinking is less clouded.

Don’t interrupt or abbreviate your season of grief, but productive work is healthy. Both hope and joy can co-exist with sorrow and sadness. Putting your hand to the plow with tears coming down your face is not a bad thing.

Share in the sorrow of those who are grieving around you. People in grief want to know that others are, in a sense, carrying some of the sorrow that they are experiencing.[2]

Catharsis at work

A dusty Hebrew proverb says: “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (Proverbs 14:10). Here is the salty, sincere mix, those raw reflections on the fragile nature of our human hearts. For the hours and days to come, there will be a bitter-sweet, ongoing work in remembering and grieving Kobe.

Already last night, Josiah and some of his baseball friends were reflecting. Over the years, they have commonly recognized Kobe’s GOAT (greatest-of-all-time) status with a fun ritual. During practices, they gather up dozens of stray baseballs and throw them into the coach’s bucket. As they throw them, they shout “Kobe!” It’s been their ongoing expression of adoration for the legend. Last evening, a number of the boys—including several of us big-boy coaches and dads—were lamenting how that toss of baseballs toward the bucket will never be the same again. Down deep we chuckle, and then more tears roll.

What if we allow remembering Kobe to do a good work in us? Perhaps we’ll talk more openly together—big kids and little kids—about what it means to grieve and also find fresh hope. Maybe we’ll talk more deeply together about what it means to truly live life to the full. Let’s squeeze our kids tighter. Let’s hold each other—family and friends—even closer. Let’s listen well and even more intentionally affirm our kids, friends, and coworkers. We all need listening ears and encouragement.

Go ahead and cry. Oh yes, cry tears. That’s healthy. But don’t stop with tears. Let’s encourage each other to choose a bigger and better hope. May we all be more tender and caring with one another. We live in such divisive, hate-mongering, quarrelsome times. Perhaps such care, tenderness, and hope in the face of grief might propel us into an ongoing love and stronger civility.

What if we deliberately work toward more genuine love, that depth of selflessness and others-orientation that our loving Creator intended from the start? Let’s remember Kobe, and let our collective grieving lead us to both receive and give God-like love more deeply and freely.

[1]Wright, Helping Those Who Hurt, 32–33.

[2]Brown, “Why We Can—and Should—Grieve at Work.” The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics blog. Tifwe.org

Raising Kids, Ready to Work!

worldviewmatters

Grimy gum on sticky tile floors. Scrape it off. Stacks of boxes in the stock room. Tear ‘em down. Sloshy, overflowing trash bags from the lunch counter-café. Haul those bad boys to the dumpster. Along the way, try my best to not break the slimy bags, spilling dead French fries and greasy liquids—thus making more work for myself. (I managed such an epic fail numerous times.)

These were my wondrous tasks at my first paycheck-producing job as a sixteen year-old. I was hired to work as an after-school stock boy by a grumbly Woolworth store manager named Mr. Akers. He never cracked a smile and refused to shake hands due to his Howie Mandel style aversion to germs. Honestly, to my youthful ego, this seemed like a less-than-ideal job. However, I felt confident, ready for the challenge, and eager to succeed in the workforce.

What’s it take these days to raise kids to be ready to engage in a lifetime of meaningful work? I recently had the privilege of doing a special interview with researcher, author, and a leading expert in perspective cultivation, Dr. Christian Overman. Enjoy gleaning from his rich insights!

Christian Overman

John: “The thick thread, Christian, of your research and writing addresses worldview. Why does a kid’s worldview matter? What’s the big deal? Why is it important for parents to pay attention to their children’s worldview?”

Christian: “A worldview is what a person believes to be true about God, about spiritual things, about how everything came into existence, about what makes humans unique, about what is right and wrong, and about what gives people purpose and meaning in living. Children who believe that no God exists, and therefore there is no Personal Being ‘above all’ who knows everything done in secret, will have less of a moral dilemma with stealing—if they think they can get away with it—and be more likely to cheat on a test at school. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It is critically important to pay attention to a child’s worldview, because it is their worldview that will shape their personal values, and their values will shape their behavior.”

John: “That makes solid sense. Worldview shapes values, and then such values lead to long-term workplace behaviors. Also, a firm grasp of what gives us purpose and meaning obviously can have a huge impact on our attitude and actions in our daily work. OK, so if worldview is that important, how should parents do their work of deliberately forming kids’ all-important beliefs and values? What would you say are the top three or four best practices parents can/should utilize in order to be more intentional about shaping their kids’ worldview?”

Christian: “On the top of my list, #1 is building into children a view of the Bible as the fully-true and inspired Word of God. An acceptance of the unquestionable authority of Scripture is critical. Of course, the Bible isn’t always easy to understand. For that reason, I recommend #2: having regular conversations about Scripture at opportune times, particularly as it relates to the real-life experiences in the child’s life. Along with this goes #3, which I’ll call the “best practice” of all: parental modeling. Kids need to see their parents living out their own respect for God and His Word, especially in the “little things” of everyday life.”

John: “Big thanks, Christian. Most of us as parents don’t just naturally engage in such intentional conversations and modeling with our kids. You’ve shared empowering tips! We’ll continue this interview in next week’s post. Great thanks!”

Want to glean more from Dr. Overman? For greater detail and further insight on intentional cultivation of a God-honoring worldview in your own life and your kids’ perspectives, I highly recommend Christian’s book, God’s Pleasure at Work: Bridging the Sacred-Secular Divide.

God's Pleasure at Work

To learn more and order your own copy, visit: http://biblicalworldview.com/bookstore.html

Watch for Part 2 of this interview in our next blog-post!

Blessings in all your endeavors this week!