A young woman I know just lost her mother. Suddenly and tragically. Another young woman I know just lost her mother to breast cancer. Those sad losses made me realize that though I lost my parents, I was so very fortunate to have had them in my life for as many years as I did. They were a constant presence in my life until they slipped away. I know my grief is different from those young ladies, but grief is grief, pain is pain, hurt is hurt. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do or say to help a grieving friend, but I have a few suggestions, speaking from experience.
- Do something nice for her. Be Jesus to her. Love her. Don’t say, “let me know if I can do anything for you”. That puts the ball in your friend’s court, and chances are, she won’t want to bother you, and may not even know what to ask for. Just do something nice for her. Give her a card with a sweet note that lets her know you’re thinking about her. Send an unexpected little gift, like a Starbucks Gift card. Take her out for pedicures and lunch, or even a shopping trip.
- Be willing to listen, and be patient. Show your compassion by just letting her talk about her loss. And cry. Let her cry. Fight your impulse to fix her sadness by saying it’s going to be okay. Because right now? To her? It’s not ever going to be okay, and she only feels sadness and grief. It takes time to cross this bridge. Time is a great healer, and so are patient, understanding friends.
- Try to add some normalcy to her life. When the time is right, invite her out, alone or with friends. Talk about things other than her loss. For example, a very sweet co-worker met me after work one day with cake and wine and quiet conversation. It was perfect. You’ll have to use your intuition to know when the time is right to do this. I went back to work as soon as I could. I needed to. It was wonderful to be around my people again! I needed to think of something that would take my mind off of myself and to focus on things other than sickness, and death, and sorrow.
- Be there when everybody goes home. This is what happens when someone passes away. The house fills with family and friends. Long lost cousins you haven’t seen in years return to pay their last respects. Neighbors bring food. Sunday School classes bring food. People come to visit. The house is usually filled to the brim with people (and food). And then after the funeral, one by one, everybody leaves. And the house grows quiet. The activity that swarms around death is over, and there’s just silence. It’s truly one of the most difficult things to deal with. This is when your friend will need you the most. To help with that transition back into her new normal. This is when you’ll want to text her often, and call her just to make sure she’s okay. Trust me. She needs you right now.
- Don’t rush her grief. Everything you’ve heard about the stages of grief is pretty spot on. I describe it as more of a long lasting sea storm, with rising tides that ebb and flow. Months after her loved one has passed she may suddenly break into tears, having a sinking spell. It’s a part of the grief journey. One of my friends gave me the best advice, “It’s okay to not be okay.” I treasured that. Because it meant that she understood that I wasn’t okay, even though my lipgloss and mascara were in place. And it was perfectly fine to have a little meltdown every now and then.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Helping your friend along her grief journey will be the biggest blessing to her and to you. Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” That comfort is God blessed, and heaven sent.
My mom set an incredible example to me of how to support and love people when they’re hurting. I imagine her homemade cards were sent out to most of the hurting families in my hometown at some time or other. My hope is to continue to grow up to be just like Mama.
Miss you Mama!