People react to the grieving in weird ways.
Some are smothering, not knowing when to just back off. They usually have good intentions and I honestly haven’t encountered very many of them. I did get cornered the other day at one of the kids’ events and was stuck for what seemed to be forever hearing an acquaintance tell me how hard it must be for my husband to be dead. Believe it or not, lady, I actually already knew that. I. know. exactly. how. much. this. sucks.
Others just avoid the grieving. They turn the other way when they see us coming. I get it. I do. It’s so hard. I’ve had more than one person tell me, “I’m just not good with this stuff, so I haven’t said anything.” I’ve pretty much just gotten to where I tell them that none of us are GOOD with this stuff. We ALL think it’s awkward and hard to know what to do/say. I’ve said it before, there are ZERO words that will make this better. NOTHING you say to me will take away the hurt. I try to say it gently and with grace, not being mean or accusing.
That said, sometimes saying nothing makes the hurt worse. We don’t have to have a 30 minute conversation about it but not acknowledging my loss can really suck, especially if it’s the first time I’ve seen you since he died. I’d rather you just say something like, “I’m really sorry about Vance. That must be really hard,” than to pretend like he didn’t die. After that, let me take the lead. Sometimes I’ll want to talk about him, others, not so much. Just read the cues. If I act like I don’t want to keep that conversation going, just let it go. If I want to talk, listen. Don’t make it about you. Just listen. I’ll do my best to read your cues, too, and not make you totally regret speaking to me.
Other people are just awesome. I have a few very close friends who check in with me via text or messaging every couple days. They don’t push if I don’t respond but they let me know they’re there when I need them. They listen more than they speak and they have been my lifelines. On the hardest days, I just ask them to pray for us. I don’t have to explain a lot or go into details if I don’t want to, but I get to be a little less alone. There are many days when that has made all the difference.
Others reach out less often but as I come to their hearts and minds, they send me love in many ways. There is nothing quite as encouraging to me right now as a random text from a friend telling me I am thought of, loved and prayed for. It does my heart good. So much good.
So if I can encourage you, I’d say this. No one knows what to say, so don’t say much. Just acknowledge that’s it’s hard, sad, messy, or whatever. Don’t say that you understand, because you probably don’t, but just say that you know it’s not easy. Let your person know that you’re there for whatever and then do at least one tangible thing that shows them you mean it. It can be as simple as a text or a card checking in, bringing by ice cream for the kids, or picking up an extra gallon of milk. It can be as involved as working all day putting in new flowerbeds or hanging shutters or ceiling fans. It can be a lunch date or a morning coffee. It doesn’t really matter what it is. It just matters that you do it.