We’re three months removed from the day Sam was born. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’ve moved past our loss, I do think we’ve settled in to something of a new normal, and I can look back on our first month without him from a birdseye perspective.
“How can I help my grieving friend?” You want to know. I have said this in passing before, but as I look back and realize that this is far and away the most important thing you could possibly do, I want to give the answer its very own post:
Say something. Say anything.
Of course you don’t know what to say. But let me relieve the pressure you feel: it doesn’t matter what words come out of your mouth. You’re not going to tell me anything I don’t know. You’re not going to make me feel better. You’re not going to solve my problem.
Try something like this: “I am so sorry that you are hurting. I love you.”
If you wait until you come up with the perfect thing to say, you’ll never say anything, and I’ll wonder if you really care about me at all.
I have told you we were (and continue to be) very well loved. I don’t want to downplay the significance of the “big” gestures like gifts, meals, and flowers. But I want to stress what a gift is was to open my mailbox or my e-mail inbox and find simple, sweet notes of encouragement, especially from people on the outer circles of my aquaintance– in other words, people who could easily have said nothing.
I have tried to say as strongly as I can that I have been abundantly blessed–beyond what I could have imagined– by the love and care I’ve received. I am NOT ungrateful for that. But I have a few friends (I could count them on one hand) that I expected to say something, that didn’t. And in the midst of the floods of cards and emails and Facebook messages, I did notice their absence. And rightly or not, I’ve concluded that I am not as important to them as I thought I was.
I am not writing this to try to guilt people to come out of the woodwork and send me a sympathy card. Truly, I’m not. But the next time you hear about a friend who is hurting, I want you to know where to start.
I’ve been the worst (even now! how terrible is that?) about excusing myself: “I don’t know her that well.” “I’ll do it tomorrow.” “Too much time has passed, now.”
I’m trying to take my own advice and be more bold with my sympathy. Your grieving friend is NOT going to say, “Why is she posting on my wall? I haven’t spoken to her in years!” or “Who is this Facebook stalker?” No, She will love you forever for your concern.
Just. do. it.