Grief. It is such a complicated, delicate issue, and yet many of us wrestle with it, and live with it in this life. In fact, if you’ve not dealt with it yet, statistics say that you will. The one thing that we are 100% sure of in this life is that we will die. The truth is, every single day we have on this earth is a gift. Are you living your life like it is?!
I am in no way an expert, just a fellow human on this journey who has learned a thing or two from my own experience, and thought it might be helpful to share. My hope and my heart is that we can make this conversation around grief a little more normal, and learn how to support each other as human beings a little better.
“If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody that is important to them & your afraid to mention them because you might make them sad by reminding them that they died. They didn’t forget they died. Your not reminding them. What your reminding them of is that you remember they lived, and that is a great gift!” -Elizabeth Edwards
1. The best thing that I can tell you to do is keep showing up, I realized that everyone’s story will be slightly different. In fact, most likely a lot different. For us, we had so many people surround us during Truckers 2 1/2 year cancer fight, which was an incredible blessing. But after trucker passed, it just felt…well really quiet. A huge aspect of grief is loneliness, I understand that more than most, but this will feel super exaggerated and for an unknown period of time.
This is in no way anybody’s fault. It is hard for everybody, and no one really knows what to do with the level of sadness that comes with death. I believe we were created with eternity on our hearts, and this is why we are so confused with death. There is no built in mechanism or guide on how to feel the most incredible sadness you have ever felt. It’s hard for the people grieving, and it’s also hard for the friends and family trying to support, often while they’re also grieving. You won’t know what to say, or how to act, for the fear of not wanting to do the wrong thing, which in turn causes most people to do nothing(I have been this person before so I totally get it-no judgment). I would argue though that imperfect action done with LOVE is better than no action at all.
Chances are your loved one won’t feel like themselves for a really long time, and they won’t even know what they need. I honestly didn’t feel like myself for 5 years, there is no time limit. This will be different for everyone, and for some it will be a lifetime of processing. So my encouragement to you is just to keep showing up because there will also still be moments of joy, and new beautiful memories made right in the middle of messy, ugly, grief.
Keep stopping by, keep texting, keep calling and leaving messages, keep inviting them to events, even if they don’t respond or show up. This will make them still feel loved and included. Drop off lunch or dinner, if that feels right, or flowers or coffee. Gift them with a massage, or whatever it is that you would do, just keep doing it, and let them know you are thinking, praying, loving, and rooting for them. Keep doing it. People who know me well still bring white flowers around important dates, this means the world to me, and makes feel known and loved.
2. Have BIG grace for them, and be patient. SO very patient. Don’t expect them to all of a sudden move on. There is no moving on, only moving forward. This will be hard because you will so badly want life to be ‘normal’ for them again. However that is not how this works, and their normal has been altered forever. Death is hard. It is supposed to be. It takes time to process, often a lifetime. You should also know that your friendship may change, and this is normal. Your loved one just might need a moment to figure out their ‘new normal’. This will be hard on you, but please remember it will be harder on them.
There was a time when even my own parents who I am close to didn’t understand what I was going through. It does not mean they dont’ love you, or care, they are most likely just emotionally surviving. You should also know that grief is fluid, meaning that the way they grieve will change over time, and the emotions along with it. Personally I have learned to manage my emotions along with the highs and lows of grief better with time, and have healthy boundaries in place for when I need them.
3. Another thing you can do that is really helpful is set reminders on your phone to text or call or drop by when those important anniversary dates come up. The holidays are so hard when you’re grieving the loss of someone, birthdays and anniversaries of their death day will never be the same. These dates can sneak up on you, and they’re heavy. Little acts of just remembering those dates will mean the world to someone who’s trying to figure out how to still live life minus one. If you have photos on your phone, or photos in general of the person who died, send them. New photos they haven’t seen before are the closest thing you can give them to a new memory. They will be like little nuggets of gold, and SO appreciated especially around these important painful dates.
4.The last thing that I want to encourage you to do is just spend time with them without expectations. Let them tell stories if they want, or not talk if they want. Look at photos if they want, or not. Watch movies if they want, or not. Eat good food if they want, or not. Go to the gravesite with them if they want, or not. You get the point. Just create space for them in whatever capacity they’re at and allow the space to flow without trying to say or do something magical. The truth is there are there are no words or actions that will take away the pain, there is just LOVE. What is most helpful for them is for you to just keep loving them.
I saw this list at some point, author is unknown but found it SO helpful, and wanted to share.
Don’t say, time heals all wounds. Instead say, I’m really sorry.
Don’t say things have to go on. Instead say, I’m here for you.
Don’t say you have to be strong. Instead say, I’d love to help you.
Don’t say he/she wouldn’t have wanted you to be sad. Instead say, you are important to me.
Don’t say, at least he or she didn’t suffer. Please don’t ever say that. Instead, say I miss him or her too.
Don’t say you can have other children. Instead say I’m thinking of you.
Don’t say just keep yourself busy. Instead say I love you.
Don’t say it was God’s will. Instead just say, I love you.
When in doubt, when you just don’t know what to say. Always just say I love you. LOVE always wins.
“I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair, with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.” -Leonard Cohen