What do you say when a person is going through the deep woes of grief?
What do you do when there are no words to make it better?
How do you respond a situation so intensely sad and unexpected that you can’t even wrap your mind around it?
Many of us just don’t know what to do.
A friend of mine recently lost her life partner to cancer. Another sad story about the way that life just should not be. In the past couple of months, this friend has kept several of us up to date through emails about how she is doing, what she’s been thinking about, and what has brought her comfort. I’ve really appreciated this way to connect with her, especially considering the authenticity in which she’s faced her deep sadness– including those of us who love her in her process as much as she is able.
And today my friend forwarded to me “This is how I feel” list that she received from participating in a recent grief workshop. She said it expressed beautifully what she felt. As someone who has also been through long periods of grief too, I know so many of these suggestions to be helpful ones– ones I wished I’d been able to share at the time with those who wanted to “help” me but just didn’t know what to do. So I could not help but share it here:
Please be patient with me; I need to grieve in my own way and in my own time.
Please don’t take away my grief or try to fix my pain. The best thing you can do is listen to me and let me cry on our shoulder. Don’t be afraid to cry with me. Your tears will tell me how much you care.
Please forgive me if I seem insensitive to your problems. I feel depleted and drained, like an empty vessel, with nothing left to give.
Please let me express my feelings and talk about my memories. Feel free to share your own stories of my loved one with me. I need to hear them.
Please understand why I must turn a deaf ear to criticism or tired clichés. I can’t handle another person telling me that time heals all wounds.
Please don’t try to find the “right” words to say to me. There’s nothing you can say to take away the hurt. What I need are hugs, not words.
Please don’t push me to do things I’m not ready to do, or feel hurt if I seem withdrawn. This is a necessary part of my recovery.
Please don’t stop calling me. You might think you’re respecting my privacy, but to me it feels like abandonment. Please don’t expect me to be the same as I was before. I’ve been through a traumatic experience and I’m a different person.
Please accept me for who I am today. Pray with me and for me. Should I falter in my own faith, let me lean on yours. In return for your loving support I promise that, after I’ve worked through my grief, I will be a more loving, caring, sensitive, and compassionate friend-because I have learned from the best.
Is there anything you’d add?