When you go through hard things, tragedies, loss..you find out who your loyal army is. You see who cares enough to go into the deepest trenches with you and do battle.. because most days that’s exactly what grief feels like.. a battle.
I have lost some really close friends along my grief journey because it’s not always fun. It’s ugly and messy. It’s heavy. But on the flip side of that, some of my sweetest relationships have been cultivated through this season. Those that have lost someone learn very quickly that you can pretty much divide the world into those who have waded through grief and those who haven’t. I would like to share a few things with those of you that haven’t been there, but would like to learn more about how to walk with and serve the hurting people in your life. I want to simply share with you some things that I have found to be SO healing to my hurting heart from my army of people that have loved me so well through loss.
1. Just show up.
Let’s just go ahead and get this out in the open. There’s NOTHING absolutely nothing that you can say that will fix their broken heart in this moment. No quote, scripture, or cliché saying can magically make them feel whole again. So let that take some of the pressure off of you. There really is no “right” thing to say. I had people that just didn’t really know what to say to me after my Dad passed away.. so they said nothing. And do you know that their saying nothing hurt deeper than if they would have just said SOMETHING. I’ve heard that pain demands to be felt. It’s true. There’s no escaping it. But it also demands to be acknowledged by those who love the person that is hurting. I have found that the most thoughtful thing you can say to someone who’s walking through grief is to admit that you DON’T know what to say. A simple “I have no words. My heart hurts for you. I am so sorry” did wonders for my grieving heart. Acknowledge the hurt and then keep being present in the hurt with them. Keep acknowledging it. Keep reminding them you’re there and thinking about them. Your presence means more than you know.
2. Mention their loved one’s names
Right after a loss, it’s normal and natural for stories and fond memories to be shared about the person that’s passed away, but as life returns to “normal” for some reason, people stop talking. People stop sharing the stories. People stop talking about the fond memories. It’s almost as if people don’t want to bring them up and remind us of our loss for fear that it’ll add more pain or awkwardness. It won’t. We LOVE talking about our people. Don’t be afraid to keep sharing..to keep remembering them with us. The person grieving may cry, but that’s okay. Don’t be afraid of their tears. Tears to the grieving aren’t unnatural or awkward. They’re just the natural expression of what they’re constantly feeling since loss. I promise you it will mean more to the hurting person if you keep remembering their loved one than if you pretend they never existed. We haven’t forgotten our people and it’s comforting to know our friends haven’t either.
3. Keep inviting them and including them
For a while after loss, a grieving person isn’t fun to be around. We see that. We know that. But there’s nothing we can do about it. So keep inviting them, but understand if they can’t make it. Keep including them, but understand when they forget an appointment or lunch date. Grief brain is real. Forgetfulness and uncharacteristic disorganization happens to a person surrounding a loss. Continue to be there for them. Assure them it’s okay. Assure them that you’ll be there when they’re ready to do “normal” things again. Assure them that you understand. Don’t get upset with them. And in the meantime, just keep inviting them.
4. Limit Complaining.
I’ve learned that people who haven’t been through a heavy loss just don’t understand some things about grief and I can’t expect them to, and I certainly don’t want them to have to experience it. But just try to be aware of what you complain about around a person who is grieving. I will never forget just weeks after my dad had passed away, someone on my college campus was griping that their dad had called them 4 times already that day just to talk. That person meant zero harm. That person was being a normal college kid. But it stung. It stung because my dad isn’t on this earth to talk to anymore and I would do just about anything to talk on the phone to him even once. If a friend has lost a child, try not to complain about the mundane duties of motherhood. If a friend has lost a spouse, try not to complain about having to pick up after yours or about them not answering your texts. Those who are grieving understand that life goes on and we don’t expect people to never complain again. Just try to be sensitive to how that complaint will come across to your friend who’s world is rocked. I’ve learned to extend grace quickly and look at people’s intent behind the words instead of the actual words themselves, but it does help if you’re more aware of what you’re complaining about around those who are trying to figure out how to navigate through life without their person. (This one is especially vital in the early days of grief!)
5. Pray for them.
This is the last one but certainly not the least. This one is pivotal. There are still days I know I would not make it through if my army wasn’t praying…if my people weren’t continually holding me up to the Father asking for healing and comfort. Those that are hurting in your life most likely don’t know what to even pray for themselves. They may not even feel that they have the energy to utter anything past “Jesus help” (and that’s okay. He will come close and answer that!!!), but it helps to know when you’re at the end of your rope, there’s others there standing there filling in the gap for you. Pray for your people. You may not have words to comfort them. You may not understand, and you may not find ways to fix them, but Jesus can. Jesus knows. Jesus understands. And it’s through YOUR prayers that He works in their life. Prayer is powerful. Don’t neglect the privilege of praying for your loved ones that are aching.
I am so thankful for my army. I’m thankful for the ways they’ve encouraged me and loved me. I can only pray to walk well with others who are hurting as a result of what God has taught me through grief.