This is the last entry for my thoughts on grief, and then i promise to get back to my regularly scheduled program (whatever that is:)
part 2: Ways you might help a friend who is grieving.
1. Don't say weird stuff. There are a lot of weird things that people say when they are trying to comfort someone who has lost a loved one. My least favorite was "God needed him more than you did." and (to a friend of mine who lost her dad) "At least he died of cancer and not in a car wreck." (WHAT???). These people said these things with the best of intentions, but they just don't help.
In my opinion, the no fail response to someone dying is "i'm sorry." Death hurts, there's no way around it. there's no catchy phrase that can extinguish it. just an honest, "i'm really sorry" is a thoughtful response.
2. Be there for the long haul. There are lots of folks around in the wake of a death; lots of casseroles, lots of cards, lots of flowers, (all very kind and helpful things). But a couple months later, when you actually feel ready to engage with people, it feels as though all those people who cared are gone. Its as if the world is spinning on without you and you are stuck in one place. Asking your friend how they are doing 1 month, 2 months, 6 months, 8 years after is so helpful. it shows that you haven't forgotten their loved one either. Just keep reaching out a hand to them; seeing how you can help, and checking how their heart is doing.
3. Remember the date/time of the loved one's death. I know this is so hard, i'm terrible at remembering any kind of dates. But if you can somehow remember the date or general time when your friend's loved one died and check on them then, it means a LOT. I have a friend who calls me every year on christmas eve (the anniversary of my dad's death) and i appreciate it so much that someone would take the time out of their day (christmas eve, no less) and consider how i'm doing. I can pretty much guarantee that your friend is thinking about their loved one (on that day) and knowing that you are too will make them feel so supported and validated.
4. Remember with them. if you knew the person's loved one and are able to share good memories with them, do it! maybe wait for the right time (you'll know). But don't think, "oh, i don't want to tell them that, it will make them sad." The good memories that people have shared about my dad are priceless to me. Its like i get to have him back for a second or like i get a new little piece of who he was.
5. listen. There are lots of things that your friend might need to say: fears, doubts, regrets, grievances, "what ifs". Some of them seem so terrible that she doesn't even want to say them outloud. create a safe place for her. You could tell her, "you can say anything to me and i will not judge your for it" and mean it. and just let her talk. don't try to solve her problems, just listen.
6. finally, love unconditionally. Your friend may not be the easiest person to be with as he is grieving. grief has a lot of faces and anger/irritability is certainly one of them. forgive him when he lashes out. realize how raw he is inside. I remember one day in my dorm room, going to my mini fridge and getting out a diet pop, which somehow jogged this really sad memory of my dad being sick. I burst into tears and just cried on my bed. My roomate was trying to study, and just ignored me. It was pretty terrible. Even when their pain seems irrational, and is an annoyance to you, just be there for them. just love.
I hope this encourages you to reach out to your friends this holiday season and do little things to show you care and you haven't forgotten their pain.
thanks very much for taking ten hours out of your day to read this :)
p.s. this artwork is from the very talented and thoughtful artist Shirae