I wrote previously about not knowing what to say to people who are grieving. I know it’s difficult to bear witness to someone’s pain, to actually contain their grief for a moment while you’re in their presence. It’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable maybe, and difficult NOT to try to relate THEIR experiences to what YOU’VE been through.
I’m here to tell you, please resist the urge to do that. You can do it in your head, but please just LET THE GRIEVER TALK!! They just need you to listen. They need you to hear their pain, to indulge their stories, to let them spin and spin over and over again about the events of the death as they determine whether or not they did something wrong or could have changed the outcome if they’d made another decision, they need you to indulge them as they recount their relationship with that person and how much they loved them.
The grieving doesn’t end at the funeral! Yes, yes, everyone shares their stories and has a good laugh and a good cry. And, all of that support and camaraderie is wonderful. And, then it’s gone. And, then it’s silent. And, then everyone moves on. And, you don’t. And, you STILL need to talk and let out the steam. For the griever, AFTER the funeral is when the grieving really starts.
Want to be a good friend? ARE you a good friend? Can you take it? Can you just let this person be a mess in your presence while all you do is contain it? If you can’t, that’s ok. Maybe you’re in pain yourself or recovering yourself and can’t be that vessel. That’s ok. Just don’t “pretend” you can and then spend your time with the griever talking about yourself and your own experiences, trying to deflect the griever from talking about their own pain. No amount of YOUR experiences makes the griever feel better about THEIR experiences. Just don’t do it.
I wrote about this in my show, Death Becomes Me. And, some people found my remarks to be “cynical”, wanted me to lighten it up a little. I’m not sure how I’m going to change the crafting of that part of the show, or IF I will. It needs to be said. I read this article today that is another illustration of why we need to learn more about how to shut up and listen.
Just be kind. Just be comforting, Just listen.