Walking out grief Part 2: Supporting Others...
Going through grief on your own is a tough journey…but there are tips to help you as you process. To read my thoughts on Part 1 go HERE.
But one of the hardest things to do is to know what to say or do for people you love who are walking through a hard time with grief. So let’s talk about some steps to think about.
1. Say less and do more…
There’s never a perfect thing to say in moments of tragedy. Honestly, with all that we have walked through we have appreciated the “Love you guys, here if you need anything” type of comments way more than the sermons some people will want to impart.
If you feel led to read off a bunch of scriptures and poems to someone in the middle of grief….don’t. If it’s really that important and you feel like the Lord gave it to you for them OR you have walked through the same things…then write it out for them in a long note or letter or email so they can read it as they feel like it.
The best things are just to be available and to do practical things for them during this time.
Things like: move their yard, grab their groceries, buy them a meal, pick up their kids, keep their kids for a couple days, help clean their house, drop off their favorite chocolate and coffee (this was one of ours)…..PRACTICAL things that say how much you love them way more than our measly English language can.
2. Give them loads of grace
Someone walking through horrible grief and tragedy are traumatized and are not in their right minds….at all. So it’s not that they get a full pass to say and act however they want (also not healthy), but you need to go way heavy on the amount of grace you show them during this time for them.
Don’t get offended if they don’t want to see anyone or don’t respond to your attempts to serve them. It’s ok…and however they walk out their journey is ok assuming they are walking it out in a healthy manner and they have someone walking with them (pastor, counselor, family, mentor, friend, etc). Remember, their grief is not about YOU.
3. Be there for the long haul (or in the moment….just be there)
People are attracted to and moved by tragedy. It’s like when a house catches on fire in your neighborhood…everyone wants to come help out and watch and even carry a bucket of water in the moment, but once the flames are out and it’s a smoking mess, there are very few people there to help you rebuild your house. The same applies in grief. There are LOTS of people who will call and come by and write in the middle of your fire and trial, but there are way less people who will be there at the end to help you walk it out and rebuild. And you know what…THAT’S OK! That’s normal and is a hard thing to understand as the person going through everything that the Father calls different people to different types of support for you…and to allow them to be who they need to be to you.
When you are the supporter though, decide whether you are going to help put out the fire, help rebuild, or both and BE THERE. That means more than anything else you can do.
4. Be appropriately persistent
What the heck does that mean JB?!? LOL Grief is a funny thing and again, everyone walks it out differently. It’s not this pretty little predictable process that you do your 3 or 4 steps and voila! You’re healed! It’s not like that at all…well, pretty much ever.
As you are walking a family member or friend through their grief or trauma, you have to know when to back off and respect space and time to be alone….while at the same time know when to push them and “kick the door down” to be there for them. Some people like me are all about having people help me and walk stuff out and I know that I will be there for those people when they need me so I’m fine with them helping me when I need it. Cindy is less like that and feels guilty for people helping her for free so she won’t ask for help most of the time when she needs it.
So check in on your friend or family member often to make sure they are getting out of the house if even to sit in the sun on the front porch for a bit and they are engaging people and eating. It’s easy for someone to wall themselves off in their house or room and make things worse.
If you don’t know how to help them ask a trusted mentor, advisor, pastor or local counselor to give you advise and help as you try to support them.
5. Be patient
So much of the pain of grief we experience for the large majority of people (at least in America) gets stuffed way down deep in our mind and emotions and takes awhile to come out or get triggered. Anything can trigger it and it can take a long time for them to fully work through. I really think it’s because as a society we are terrible with loss and grief. I know I went through a lot of loss growing up and we as high school students seemed to handle it better than most of the adults around us. It just wasn’t something taught very well or modeled very well.
Most people try to avoid working through their grief because obviously they don’t want to hurt and they steer clear. So just really be patient with them as they try to get their bearings about them.
Bottom line: the grief people are walking out is not about you….it’s about THEM and their pain. Don’t try to make it about you and don’t try to get in the middle of their pain and compete with them (weird but it happens) as they struggle through it. Just be there to fully support and love them and to be fully present as they go through their process.
You as the support person can make ALL the difference in someone’s grief journey.