by Rebecca Day Tucker
Aftermath includes five sections that cover grief emotions and provide Scripture lists, counsel from grief experts, sections with helps and tangible handles on dealing with grief.
- The author shares a number of excerpts from her mother’s writings. Many are reminiscent of Psalms; outpourings of her deepest emotions to her heavenly Father. How do you think the act of writing down her thoughts and feelings impacted her journey through grief and her relationship with God during that time? Whether or not you consider yourself a writer, how can journaling, or even writing on the back of a napkin or on a piece of scrap paper help you or a loved one deal with the cyclical emotions of grief?
- At the beginning of the book, McSweeney mentions the stages of grief, but acknowledges that these “stages” don’t always follow in order. How have you, or your loved ones, experienced the stages of grief? Can you relate to the “circular” pattern the author describes?
- McSweeney often mentions her mother’s mantra, “Speak the truth in love.” Have you felt the need to speak truth to a grieving friend? Have you experienced someone speaking the truth to you? Was it done in love? What does that mean? How should we evaluate truth and love when ministering to someone who is grieving?
- An “adult orphan” is one way McSweeney describes herself after losing both parents. Her mother’s writings after her husband’s death speak of finding her identity as a single person. How does the loss of a parent/spouse/close friend change your identity? How do you establish a “new you” as you move forward in the wake of a loss?
- “Reach out and touch the near edge of a great need…” The author’s parents used this quote to refer to mission opportunities. Her mother used it to inspire herself to reach out to those around her, including neighbors and other widows. And the author herself reached out for a “near edge” when establishing ministries like Pearl Girls. What near edges are visible in your life? How can reaching for near edges help us work through our own grief?
- Questioning God is a natural reaction to grief. Why do bad things happen to God’s people? Is it really His will for children to be orphans or for parents to bury their children? The author’s family is one with a rich heritage of faith, yet multiple generations experienced grief in the loss of loved ones seemingly before their time. The author shares the “whys” of each generation that experienced loss. How does this family’s grief experience—and their reaction to it—impact your feelings about asking why?
- FAITH—Forsaking Everything, I Trust Him. The author reminds us of this acronym several times throughout the book. Read the words that go with each letter. Define each of them. How do these words apply—and assist—in times of deep sorrow or grief?
- The author ends the book with a reference to God’s grace and a poem her mother penned about the same topic. McSweeney saw a glimpse of God’s grace in the simple reflection of a stained-glass window. Her mother compares the grace she experienced with that shown the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness. What evidence of God’s grace have you experienced in your own journey? How has it encouraged and sustained you?
- That you will seek God’s hand and His grace in the small things, “snippets” that remind you of His love and care for you. And that you will look back over your journey and see His hand and His grace at work throughout.
- That God will give you the courage to share your own story with others, whether it be an individual who is grieving the loss of a loved one, someone who can be helped by your journey, or an entire audience of readers as the author has done with her book. Your experience may be just what someone else needs to get them through a difficult time or to let them know that they aren’t alone.
- For others experiencing loss. The author describes a heritage of faith and a family of prayer warriors. Be that warrior for others who are grieving. Lift them up in prayer, and let them know that you are doing so.
- For the author, writings from her mother, father and grandparents helped her to work through grief, but also to get to know these very important family members in an even more intimate way than she knew them in life. Take the time today to write a letter or two to your children, parents, grandchildren or other special individuals in your life. Share your faith story, and share with them what they mean to you. Send it now, or tuck it away for later.
- Create a “comfort box” for yourself, or for a loved one. It can be a nice, purchased box, a decorated shoe box, or an oatmeal container! Fill it with special letters and remembrances of a loved one, and put it in a place where it can be a quick reminder of that special person.
- Find a “near edge” where you can minister to someone in need. It might be someone else who is grieving, a neighbor who simply needs to talk, a local charity in need of volunteers, or a program at church. Finding a way to give, even when you feel the most needy, can be a catalyst in the healing process. If you are walking with a friend through the grieving process, help him or her find that “near edge.”