I have been told that I have a reputation for being blunt, unfeeling and harsh in my criticism. I am sorry about that and I apologize in advance if this post comes across as offensive.
If you’ve ever experienced loss, pain, failure or grief, the first thing you realize is that it is personal. It may be the loss of a spouse, a child, the loss of a job or business, a terminal illness, a divorce or separation, whatever it is, you learn that you never know how the shoe pinches until you put them on. To help a loved one through such rough patch, please remember the following:
It’s not about you
This, perhaps, is the first and most important thing to remember. I can’t sound the gong any louder than this. It is about them and their pain, their hurt and suffering and bewilderment. Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of people who try to make it about themselves; they want to be the one to comfort, assure and pull the aggrieved person out of their misery and earn the best friend of the year award. It is not your responsibility. They have to come to make that decision by themselves and you can only help them do it.
It is not an opportunity to show off your expertise in handling grief and tragedy, or for you to take over their lives and try to fit the pieces, and no one is asking you to whip out that quote from Confucius about grief and pain.
Acknowledge that you cannot take away the pain
As much as it breaks you to see your loved one hurting, and as much as you’d like to take it away, you just cannot. It’s a process they have to go through, and all you can do is love them every step of the way.
Be there… and do it quietly
I have noticed that when confronted with a loved one who is grieving, people get embarrassed and uncomfortable, fishing around their heads for the appropriate words to say. There are really no words that can change the situation or even undo the damage. Nothing you can say or do will make the burden any lighter. It’s okay to not know what to say, and when in doubt, be quiet. Just let them feel your presence as they try to process their situation. Your presence is far more comforting than any words that you might say..
Take your cues from them
Not everyone handles grief and pain the same way. Some become vocal, and others retreat into themselves and become silent. When they’re vocal, just listen. If they choose to envelope themselves in silence, get comfortable. Don’t let the silence unsettle you. Pay close attention to them and let them tell you what they need you to do. It could be to get them Starbucks coffee, or some comfort food, or they may need you to sit with them and watch the sunset, or share a bottle of strong drink. It is important not to intrude. Be close enough to keep them aware of your presence and ultimately stop them from hurting themselves or jumping off a cliff (literally), but far enough to let them lick their wounds in private.
Do not trivialize
I shake my head in disbelief when I hear people tell others who are grieving things like “God knows best,” “We cannot question God,” or “God has a reason for everything,” or such dismissive quotes from the scriptures. I am not disputing the truth in these cliches, but it beats me how people can be so thoughtless.
I believe it is okay if you want to ask, “Why now Lord? Why me?” It is okay to feel forsaken to feel that He doesn’t care. It is okay to express your doubt and pain, because to pretend that we do not hurt, to pretend that we do not feel forsaken and neglected and abandoned, to pretend that we do not sometimes question His love, is the height of falsehood. And if what the scriptures say, that He searches out even the innermost secrets of our hearts, is true, then He better than anyone else can understand even beyond words can explain how we feel inside.
…and for Pete’s sakes do not compare
Pain is pain. There is no greater pain or smaller pain. It hurts and this is all that matters. This is not the time to tell them about your own experience, when you lost your husband or father, or experienced pain similar to theirs. Because while they want to understand and care about your experience, the truth is that they do not (I guess we have all been there – the mind numbing experience of going through something that we thought up until then only happened to others and to us). Your stories will come in handy in the future when they are done grieving and are ready to talk.
As you might have guessed, this was borne from my personal experience and the lessons I took away from my journey. Please feel free to share your experiences and any helpful tips on helping a loved one deal with tragedy
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