How to help a friend through the grieving process in our twentiesPosted on April 25th, 2012
It’s Guest Post Wednesday. All Groan Up welcomes Meredith Miller. Meredith works at the Pepperdine Volunteer Center, where her current role is to train and support college student staff as they engage their peers in service and social justice opportunities. She loves coffee, bacon, and waffles, but hates to cook. Her blog focuses on faith and social justice, with a few other topics thrown in just for fun. Please check out more great stuff from Meredith at meredithannemiller.com.
For many of us, our twenties are the first time we experience a major grieving process.
Whether it’s the passing of a family member or dear friend, pregnancy loss, or divorce, we find ourselves in the midst of unknown pain.
I lost my twin daughters after going into pre-term labor, born too early to survive. I found myself plunged into a fog of grief, unable to see a way out of the sorrow. As difficult as it was for me, it was also a grieving process for my friends. I had a community that committed to journeying with me out of the fog back into the light, for whom I am grateful beyond words.
Upon reflection, there are some things they did for me that helped tremendously. If you are journeying with a friend in grief, perhaps these can guide you too.
Ask questions. Or at least, say something.
I don’t want to be a burden to you with my super-sad babies-dying story. But, in real life I am super sad because my babies died.
And I don’t want to burden you with my inability to wash the dishes no matter how big the pile gets. But, in real life, I do not have energy for the dishes and would rather buy a new pan than wash the old one.
So if you at all want to talk with me about my sadness, I want that. If you are willing to do my dishes for me, I want that.
But asking you feels like burdening you.
So please ask questions, honestly and gently, about how I’m feeling or whether there is something you can do for me. Your questions show me that I am not a burden to you and give me space to share my story in community.
If you don’t know what to ask, that’s okay too. But say something, even if that something is, “I don’t know what to say.” Even that opens the door to conversation.
Feel sad, but don’t feel guilty.
When something really awful happens to a friend, sometimes those of us who are less affected don’t know what to do with the fact that it does not hurt us the way it hurts our friend. We hurt for our friend, certainly. But that’s different.
When we know our friend is sad, we feel guilty for being happy. We feel like we are betraying their pain.
At least, that’s how I’ve felt.
But now, I’ve been on the other side. Those of us in pain need to see your joy. You remind us of what can and will be again in our lives.
Grief takes time
Above all, recognize and remind your friend that the grieving process is longer than anyone wants it to be or thinks it will be. It’s unique to every person. I would bet that even now, some of you read my advice and thought, “That is not what I want(ed) in my grief.”
What’s helped you?
I would love to hear what has helped you in your grief, or what have you offered to a friend that was well received. Sharing stories of grief helps us all to better understand this unique kind of pain, so we can better walk the journey.
Photo Credit: H.Koppdelaney - Creative Commons