Grief is consuming. When something tragic happens, we wonder how the world keeps spinning, how people keep going to work and making dinner. It’s unfathomable that life cannot pause for one second so we can catch our breath.
Grief is real. I have had the privilege to walk with dear friends during seasons of unspeakable pain.
How do we love friends that are hurting? How do we engage pain when we’ve never experienced their type of loss? How do we meet their needs, bring comfort, and offer hope? Friendships are built when things fall apart.
Grief is big, but our love for each other is bigger. We can walk into each other’s sadness and offer hope. In times of great loss, pain, and confusion, the greatest gift we are given is each other.
Show up, then show up again
Grief makes you feel fuzzy. It brings a numbness that is hard to describe unless you’ve lived through it. It’s the sensation of moving in slow motion while your thoughts are racing. When loss lands on the doorsteps of the people we love, we must intentionally show up for them. Their pain will make us feel uncomfortable, and it will be easier to disengage. We do this not because we are cruel but because we are afraid. What do we even begin to say to someone that has just lost a parent or received the scariest diagnosis?
It is better to say something, anything than to remain silent. Grief can bring deep isolation and even shame.
It is important to recognize how your friends want to be cared for and loved. Every person will cope with their grief differently, so we must love them intentionally.
Respect their process
There are many stages of grief, and it’s a process. It isn’t linear or manageable. Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression can all show up on the same day. The friend you encounter on Monday may be grieving differently on Thursday, and we cannot rush them.
Don’t shame the people you love because you don’t understand their grief.
It mandatory that we give lots of grace too. Our hurting friends might act out, lash out, or surprise us with the words that come spilling out of their mouths; and if they open the door and begin to tell us about their pain, we must lean in and listen. Creating space and opportunity for them to share their experience is healing.
Real friends lean into pain and don’t tire of listening. With their words and actions, they’ll respond tenderly and say, “Tell me again why it hurt.”
It’s not about you
It’s not your job to understand every thought or feeling. Your friend’s fear and sadness may seem illogical, and your gut reaction will be to solve it. Resist that urge. Bringing hope isn’t about looking on the bright side or offering a plan. When those we love are in pain, our only requirement is being willing to sit in it with them even if it’s uncomfortable.
There is a beautiful pattern we can mimic when we’re speaking to someone in a hard place. First, we listen. We don’t interrupt or cut them short. We allow for every thought, word, fear or tear to spill out of them. Then, we validate the feelings, because their feelings are real.
We tell them that we see them in their pain, and we hurt for them. Finally, we tenderly and carefully offer our support. Supporting is the opposite of fixing; because through support we will not claim to know the answers, but we will communicate that they will never be alone.
Life is hard, and grief is great. Learn to show up for them. Send the text message, take the meal, write the letter, or make the phone call. Find a way today to engage their pain and be with them.
We’re given each other as gifts because we desperately need each other. Life is too hard to go at it alone, and we’re all capable of bringing light in darkness.