Sit beside us on our mourning bench

I wish to thank those of you who have sat with me on the mourning bench these past five days. It was important for me to pray … and reflect upon … and simply feel the death of my son in light of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Aaron’s death has been utterly devastating for me, my wife, my children. I am grateful for the gift of the words of Nicholas Wolterstorff and his poignant lament for his own son. His lament bespeaks my heart. I do not think I could have otherwise brought my grief to word.

I know that when confronted with the loss and grief like mine, people find themselves at a loss. They do not know what to say or do. Often they simply choose to disappear. It is easier to abandon a friend or relative than to be with them in their grief.

What does one who is mourning want from you? Just to be with them:

But please: Don’t say it’s not really so bad. Because it is. Death is awful, demonic. If you think your task as comforter is to tell me that really, all things considered, it’s not so bad, you do not sit with me in my grief but place yourself off in the distance away from me. Over there, you are of no help. What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is. I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation. To comfort me, you have to come close. Come sit beside me on my mourning bench.

The grief does not go away in a week or a month. Be prepared for a long stay on the mourning bench. I know you would prefer if we would simply get better, if we could just put the loss behind us and move on. But it does not work that way. Those of us who suffer the death of a child or sibling did not have a choice. Our lives were suddenly ripped apart, our hearts crushed. But you, our friends and family, you have a choice. It is a hard choice, I know. For to join us on the mourning bench is to suffer. It is to enter into the darkness of death and to await resurrection. And oh what a long and terrible wait it is.

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10 Responses to Sit beside us on our mourning bench

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    The photograph of my family was taken back in the late 90s. My children are now all adults. Two are married. But we are one less than we should be.


  2. Paul says:

    Dear Fr. Aidan. I do not know what to say or how to say it except to tell thou that even though \we have never met in person (I wish we weren’t so far apart), I care about your pain that I wish so much I could take away. Please consider me as sitting with you right now.



  3. Dear Fr. Aiden, please accept my deepest sympathy on your profound loss. As a mother of a two time cancer survivor and friend to parents who have lost their children to that disease I thank you for sharing your grief with us. You are correct, “things don’t get better”, the hole in your heart remains forever.
    Grief with Faith, at the very least enables us to carry on…until the day when we can hold our loved one in our arms. Until then they will watch us from above.
    Your son is now healed, but the great Healer.
    I believe this to be true.
    Just like my dear mother with Alzeimers who could no longer communicate her feelings upon her death, I know that she now prays for us each and everyday. This is a comfort to me because she passed 4 months before my son’s diagnosis with cancer.
    How strange is the world!
    We raise our children, we think we have a plan for them,,We think we can find all the answers but we cannot!
    Only God knows the PLAN.

    May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ continue to shower you and your family with Love and strength.
    Christos Anesti!
    Angie Giallourakis


  4. Gree Shaw says:

    Al, for those of us who have experienced this saddest and most helpless of deaths firsthand, please know that we are always and forever sitting with you on the mourning bench. Your pain will, hopefully, ease somewhat in the next few years, but it will never go away and our prayers will always be with you.


  5. Lasseter says:

    What does one who is mourning want from you? Just to be with them ….

    I like this statement. It is an awful feeling to be left at a distance, to feel abandoned in one’s time of grief. Is it a difficult choice to sit with someone in his time of need? It certainly isn’t complicated. The pain one experiences in sympathy is but a shadow of the pain of the one actually suffering, and offering sympathy presents even its own rewards to the one who offers it: reveals itself to be better, even in just the most hedonic sense, for the one willing to take the time and do the sitting. Who benefits from abandonment or distance? And yet everyone involved benefits from a bit of simple friendship.

    You all made for a handsome family back there in the late nineties, Father Aidan. I’m very sorry for this evil you are suffering. I wish you and yours only the best.


  6. Geoffrey says:

    Fr. Kimel – I wanted you to know how much this series has meant to me; how much your willingness to share your broken heart with the world has moved me to you. I have written a couple things about the general topic, in no small part thanks to your sharing Wolterstorff speaking for you. More important, I wanted you to know I have prayed for you and your family; I continue to pray for you and your family; I will continue to read your writings, even if it’s only a reflection upon one of the Fathers of the Church, because to comfort the mourners includes lifting them up in all things. Bless you, sir, and your whole family. If I could, I would embrace you all so you would know, for a single moment, that you are not alone on that mourning bench.


  7. Julie Mary says:

    I have sat with you and felt your pain


  8. Nathan says:

    Father Kimel,

    Thank you for sharing what you have with us. I to mourn your loss – many tears shed. Much love to you and yours in Christ.



  9. Father bless. Christ is Risen. Thank you for permitting us and future readers to participate and be present.

    Fr Henri Nouwen has written:
    “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 


    “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” 

    Thank you for permitting us to be vulnerable and compassionate. To just behold the icon of love that is expressed in your writing. Thank you for being both friend and father. Forgive me for already speaking in excess, when all that I should be saying and praying is “Christ is Risen”, “Memory Eternal” and “Kyrie Eleison”.


  10. NancyD says:

    Father, prayers for you and yours!


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