I must admit that this journey has tested a lot of my friendships. It's not a testing I want to be there and it's something that honestly involves a lot of compassion and mercy on my friends part and involves patience and understanding on mine. Because often what we want friends to give us is the very thing that only God can give, complete understanding and consistent mercy and strength to withstand every thought, emotion, fear and sorrow I may have and return those with healing and peace.
But here are some ways I've written out that may help in just being there and letting God use you in a hurting situation even though you can't do the actual healing. Be the balm that might soothe the pain.
Ways to socially help a grieving friend:
- Offer them concrete times when you can get together with them and concrete things you can do together. Getting together to just talk might be just what ends up happening but the thought of going to do just that can be overwhelming for the hurting heart.
- I've had a few people who just happened to be at the right place at the right time and they were the "lucky ones" that I fell apart on. Those are moments I'll treasure forever and I think they are often divinely planned from God. But just because someone needs you at a given time doesn't mean they will in the future in that same way. In other words, you may bond during that one moment or crying spell or talk but that may just be your moment together and it may never happen again. Don't think that you need to recreate moments or times together for continued bonding or grieving. Just be willing to be used of God when He plans those moments and remember them. Just like I have to thank Him for that unexpected person He put in my path and will be blessed because of that moment of loving care for my heart.
- As for you BFF's out there, Let them turn you down or tell you no many times. Don't give up on them. It may not be the right time but that time may come and you want to be there when it does. I had a close friend who called me and called me and left messages and emails and for weeks I didn't respond because I didn't have the strength to at first and she totally understood and said that each time she called. But when the time was right I was ready to spend time with her and it was so good knowing she was there waiting for me when I was ready!
- If a phone message doesn't get returned, try email. That can be something a person can respond to when the time is right and she has something to say or has processed your email. And if the email doesn't get returned don't give up just email again and remind them… I don't mind being reminded… seriously. Sometimes my phone or email inbox is completely overwhelming so it ends up paralyzing me and I don't deal with the emails I need to write or phone calls I need to make and sometimes I just forget altogether. When I look at the way I've neglected some, then the thought of catching up seems too much… ughh.. it drives me crazy. I drive me crazy. maybe this will help you understand more.
- At first especially, be consistent. Don't assume everyone is jumping in to be there at first or that you wouldn't be needed even if everyone was. Those first days and weeks are essential to be a part of if you at all can. One friend came over every wednesday morning (which was her free morning of the week and I know it was such a sacrifice) and she was very faithful and then after a while she and I both knew she needed to do some things for her family during that time and I remember crying the first wednesday she couldn't come. But she did call and for weeks did so every wednesday. But her consistency in the process helped me know one day from the other in the beginning… because at least I knew that was wednesday and she and I and a cinnabon roll would get time together. Thanks Becks!
- Send a card. It was so helpful to have actual notes of support and love waiting in our mailbox each day for weeks. But now, it's back to bills and magazines. Now, that's just life. I know that. But for example a few weeks ago I got a card from a good friend at church who had a baby near the time I did and she just shared how she felt as though she grieved with me from a distance and that she wanted me to know that she was there even though she wasn't physically there. That meant the world to me. And it was still timely and nurturing. ***** now, I'm not writing all this to say everyone needs to write me or love me a certain way I'm just helping process this while some of it is really fresh so that we might love better and I will remember this for others who will come into my life hurting!
- Admit your awkwardness with the situation or admit your false guilt. some of the most precious moments came when new mothers would cry and tell me they feel guilty for having healthy babies or healthy grandbabies when I didn't. We both knew that there was nothing either of us could do or not do to deserve healthy or not healthy babies but that it was in God's hands. But just being that transparent was so good for the friendship and for the freedom to bring their babies around me knowing I knew what they were feeling.
- Know that certain gifts will mean so much even if you never know it. The gifts that were given to asher during his life that were ones given expecting him to live are so precious to me! The ones that were more memorbilia in nature are a little harder to love because they can scream death, even though I know they will grow precious to me over time. So, those of you who have friends will difficult pregnancies or have been given grim diagnosis… give them something that screams life and normalicy. Buy clothes the child may never wear. Buy stuffed animals the child may never hold. Make quilts that the child may never need the warmth of. Those are so precious to me to this day!
- It will be the strangest acts of kindness that mean the most. I remember a few close friends and family asking to see Asher in his homegoing box and that was such a strange request to me right then..(especially being my first experience with death and burial) but today those people are endeared in my heart SO much,! a fatherly kiss on the head, saying they love us. You will have moments with your hurting friend and you may not think it was much or that those moments need to keep happening but God used you in a flash of time to help them heal and provide comfort and love. sometimes that has to be enough for right now.
- As a blog writer…. Please don't ever tell someone that their story or blog posts are just too sad for you and that because of that you can't go there to read what they have written. I mean, seriously. My life… is too sad for YOU? I want to say "try being me". I know it takes energy to be a part of someones life and even to look into a window of their pain and I of all people know that sometimes we don't have the energy to handle a big cry-fest every day. But turn off the music if you have to. Read it just once a week. Or if you know you are going to be seeing them take a few minutes and read what they wrote most recently. Stay connected that way if they have put themselves out there. My closest friends are the ones who read my hearts cry on here week after week. Some strangely enough are women I've never even met.
- Try not to tell them or think you know what they can or can't handle in their life right now. In some areas I am ready to take on the world and in a sense we did when we brought Zoe into our family. She's been amazing for me and has given me something concrete to focus on and she gives so much back!! But as mentioned before other areas, which might seem like nothing compared to adopting a baby might prove too much to handle at this time. It's strange. But hurting hearts are looking to survive and they will know what they can handle or not, or they will soon let you know if they can't. Just be there for them as they welcome or buffer the things coming into their worlds. Next:Ways to Physically help your hurting friend & Lessons I've learned from others journey of grief.