Cleaning Her House Is Next to Godliness

May 19, 2008 at 7:19 pm 16 comments

How to Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 11

Another extremely helpful ministry to a grieving friend or family member is cleaning. I know it probably seems like, “Wow, this grief thing’s a good gig—no cooking, no cleaning…”

Maybe it only feels that way to me, someone who is grieving, because I’m the recipient of such lavish gifts. I feel a little self-conscious about receiving, receiving, receiving. Which, by the way, is something that God has been revealing in my heart during this season of what seems like so much “getting.” It’s very humbling.

I don’t like to not do my fair share. I don’t like to feel like dead weight. But often times, in the last eight months, that’s what I’ve been. And in thinking about the spiritual significance of that, it’s absolutely true about my relationship with God. I’m dead weight. He does not need me for anything. He’s just giving and giving, and I’m constantly receiving. And gosh darn it, I try my best to pay him back, earn my keep, pull my weight, etc., but I never can. It’s all about his grace to me as a sinner.

There was one Saturday when some friends banded together and cleaned my house—it was a total surprise, all of their own initiative. They told Abraham to get me out of the house and they went absolutely over the top with fresh flowers everywhere, lunch on the table when we arrived home, and an in-home massage in the afternoon! It was incredible. I wept for days each time I thought of their kindness to me. Such creativity, such selflessness. And here I am, just sponging it all up. Receiving—again.

Part of what makes this receiving so difficult is knowing that the people who are taking the time to come clean my house have houses of their own to clean, children of their own to take care of, plans on their calendars to keep. It’s a humbling thing to admit “I can’t keep up.” And it’s even more humbling to add to that, “Please clean my toilets.”

Here’s how I’ve dealt with this heavy dose of humility as “the grieving friend”:

  • I don’t feel as guilty about having my house cleaned if I leave and just let someone do it while I’m gone. If I’m involved in any way, I’m defeating the purpose of why they’re there, which is to bless me and my family. My self-conscious lurking doesn’t help anyone.
  • I also don’t feel as guilty if someone else initiates. It basically doesn’t happen if I have to call someone and say, “I can’t get out from under this, can you come do this for me?” Granted, tons of people tell you when your tragedy happens, “If there is anything I can do—anything—just let me know,” but what they don’t count on when they say that is what position that puts the grieving person in—always having to ask and feeling like a huge imposition. That’s really, really hard.

What you can do:

  • Just call and offer to clean. If she’s evasive or you can tell she feels guilty about that, ask concrete questions like, “What day would work best for me to come and clean at your house?”
  • Ask her to make a list of where her cleaning supplies are and what jobs she’d like you to do. If that’s difficult for her, then just take over and do the tasks that seem most necessary—whatever will make her feel like the house is clean when she gets home.

It’s never too late to help. You have not missed the boat if it’s been 4 months, 8 months, 12 months. Remember, the reality of her loss might just be setting in and she’s languishing in ways you would have never expected.

(Read other posts in this series.)


Entry filed under: Grief.

Food Post Addendum Summer Shins

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amy  |  May 19, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    You are right, this stage of “getting” is very humbling indeed. So hard for someone not used to it, yet I do not want to discourage in any way those who are doing the giving. I had someone come in and just help me clean one day. We talked and talked and worked and worked. It felt so good to actually accomplish something.

  • 2. Andrea  |  May 20, 2008 at 5:00 am

    Another great post.

    Like you, the spiritual side of what I learned through all that “receiving” was pretty humbling…that it is *all God* and His grace to me. Even though I would have said that before Kendall died, I think I somehow know it to be true in a way I did not before. I think I was often guilty of a little bit of “bootstraps” theology…you know, I’m organized and capable, and that will get me through, thank you God, very much!

    But that realization that He does not “need” my wonderful efforts, and that they are in fact, weak and poor in comparison with His power, His comfort…that has been huge for me.

    Thank you again for this great series…I’ve forwarded links to several other women who will find this helpful as they minister.

  • 3. Kellie  |  May 20, 2008 at 7:14 am

    I think too that this is probalby helpful for anyone who may be in a position of “need” not just grieving people.

  • 4. jess  |  May 20, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Great thoughts! I so appreciate your insights.

    Whenever I am on the receiving end of someone’s helpfulness, I try to remember that when Jesus greets us in heaven we long to hear him say “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'”(Matthew 25:34b-36) Sometimes I read that passage and just think, “Wow, yeah, there are so many people in the world who need my help.” But the reality may be that I’m the one who needs help and when I allow someone to graciously step in and help me I am giving them an opportunity to serve in such a way that Jesus will heap blessings on them. The beauty of it is that in their giving and your receiving, you are actually giving and they will one day receive. Wow!

  • 5. leanne gilchrist  |  May 20, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Again, such relevant thoughts.

    Such good ideas.

    Thanks again for posting.

    Maybe you ought to think about putting them into a small book.

    Just an idea.

    Leanne in Longview

  • 6. Susan  |  May 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    These posts have been incredibly practical and I’m sure will serve many. I know this series of posts is something I will return to.

  • 7. Jen  |  May 20, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Dear Molly,

    I read your post this morning, after my quiet time. The third paragraph really stood out to me…I think because in a way, it relates to a situation in my life that I am journeying through right now. It’s a different kind of situation than the one you are in, but the truth is still blindingly, brilliantly true, regardless of circumstance. I keep beating myself up with thinking I’ve been at this place of struggle and need so many times lately…isn’t He sick and tired of me by now?! I’m sick and tired of myself! But reading your words and thinking about them has helped.

    Thank you for sharing your heart, and thank you so much for your honesty. By-the-way, my name is Jen, and I also attend Bethlehem. : ) You have been a source of encouragement to me!

    A sister in Christ,

  • 8. Katie Hoffman  |  May 21, 2008 at 1:17 am

    I’m so thankful that you have written these blogs on how to help grieving friends! I have probably been praying for over two years now that God would teach me what to say to people when they are going through a tragedy, and He is answering my prayer tonight through your blog! So thank you so much for taking the time to write and share your heart with us.

    As I’ve been reading through all your posts, I keep thinking about a friend of mine who I need to call and make a strong effort to reach out to. I don’t know her very well, but because you’ve given us specific ways to minister to the hurting, I feel more confident with just calling her out of the blue.

    And then this paragraph:
    “I don’t like to feel like dead weight. But often times, in the last eight months, that’s what I’ve been. And in thinking about the spiritual significance of that, it’s absolutely true about my relationship with God. I’m dead weight. He does not need me for anything. He’s just giving and giving, and I’m constantly receiving. And gosh darn it, I try my best to pay him back, earn my keep, pull my weight, etc., but I never can. It’s all about his grace to me as a sinner.”

    WOW!!! That floored me! Such a good reminder. It’s almost funny to me that I can get caught up in thinking that somehow my ministry is “helping” God. When really, if I say or do anything worthwhile, it was all God working in me. And if I am doing something of my own accord, thinking I can somehow repay God for all He has done for me, I become worse than dead weight! For who has given a gift to Him, that He might be repaid?…

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

    Thank you again for your edifying words!

    Love in Christ,
    Katie Hoffman

  • 9. Mrs. MK  |  May 21, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Thank you!

  • 10. Colleen  |  May 21, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Thanks… I like these things and am sure they are beneficial… but do you have any tips for helping friends long distance. I’m half the world away from my friend who recently lost her father. How do I help her if I can’t be there physically or send her a meal…

  • 11. Adrienne  |  June 10, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    A friend I never met before did this a month after my daughter died…. It was a huge blessing!

  • 12. Lisa  |  July 19, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Hi, Got here from Rocks…
    I appreciate all the stuff you have written about grieving.

  • 13. kari  |  August 10, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    hey molly,
    heard soooo much about you from our sweet sista dana c. we live across the street from each other and she loves you tons. thanks for the practical. it has given me some ways that our small group can creatively love a fam in our church who just lost their baby boy. thanks again.

  • 14. Christina  |  May 4, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I was sick for several days before my son died and my kitchen was in horrible condition. The day he died, a friend came over and cleaned the whole thing for me. It meant so much and I couldn’t adequately express my gratitude towards her.

  • 15. Rebecca  |  May 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Dear Molly,

    Thank you for writing this post. I am kind of the “in limbo” grieving friend right now, as our unborn baby has been diagnosed with Trisomy 18. I hope to mention these posts on my blog so my friends have a better idea of what they can do.


  • 16. Helping Others Grieve – Afflictions eclipsed by glory  |  February 17, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    […] prepared for my coming home. Oh, those dear friends who cleaned my house that week for me. We left in a tizzy when going to the hospital so I know it was a mess. But it was […]


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