Help me to understand.

Listen to this obituary

Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People continues to be a best seller for the simple reason that it explains in simple truths how to thrive and make a difference in your world. Habit #1 = Be Proactive. Habit #2 = Begin With The End In Mind. Habit #3 = Put first things first. Habit #4 = Think Win-Win. Habit #5 = Seek First To Understand And Then To Be Understood. Habit #6 = Synergize. Habit #7 = Sharpen The Saw. You might want to read and heed Dr. Covey’s explanation of these steps. 

In helping ourselves and others through their grief journey, Habit #5 is where we want to camp out today.

Seek first to understand and THEN to be understood.

Not IF, but WHEN, death comes, do we try to put ourselves in our fellow grievers’ shoes? A grieving five-year-old and a grieving eighty-year-old will grieve differently.  Perhaps the best we can do is to TRY and put ourselves in the other person’s place and TRY to understand what they need from us at the time. And, if we ask, maybe they will tell us!

Almost thirty years ago, it was the first night of my first class in my graduate education in counseling. I will never forget the teacher saying that his usual first question after meeting a new client was typically “Help Me To Understand what brought you here today.” This takes the defensiveness away from the counselee, and the counselor is seen as the first one in distress. Help Me To Understand.

Many times, when death comes, we are unprepared for this last event of life and we say things like, “I just don’t understand why this had to happen.”

Often truer words have never been spoken.

Jesus had just delivered seven masterfully-told stories in Matthew 13. He wanted to know if His disciples understood. Jesus spent up to 3½ years with His disciples – day in and day out, all day long, teaching them, mentoring them, disciplining them, and they still didn’t get it, and yet somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that if we don’t get some mind-blowing, life-altering, world-shaking revelation from God in 20 minutes, one day a week, we might as well not go to church. Sometimes it takes more than that to get understanding.

Matthew 13:51-52 (ETRV) = Then Jesus asked his followers, “Do you understand all these things?” They said, “Yes, we understand.” 52 Then Jesus said to the followers, “So every teacher of the law who has learned about God’s kingdom has some new things to teach. He is like the owner of a house. He has new things and old things saved in that house. And he brings out the new with the old.”  

Going to a good counselor or letting down your defenses and talking to a dear friend may save your sanity in times of grief.

“Help me to understand!”

Will you let anybody in?

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Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at

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