Before last year, I couldn’t say that I know much about the grief process. Unfortunately, our family was rocked by multiple deaths during the last half of 2014, and we became accustomed to the awkwardness that comes with navigating work and your social circle while you are in the throes of tragedy. No one knows what to do, what to say, or how to act around you, so they don’t do anything. During the first few weeks of my husband’s sister, Erin, being missing, SO many people wanted to know what they could do to help…but we were in such a fog of sleep deprivation and emotional overload that we really had no idea what to say to our friends. There’s no handbook for these things, and no one is sure what to do or how to help- even when they really, really want to.
These are the things I wish I had been able to tell everyone who wanted to help but didn’t know how:
5 Things Your Grieving Friend Wants You to Know
1.I DO want to talk about it
I want to tell you how much I miss the person I lost. I want to tell you that this feels like nothing I could have ever imagined and I’m not sure how I’m ever going to get over it. I want to wallow in this for a while, and I want you to be comfortable with letting me do that. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t know what to say, but please know that just listening, and sitting with me is enough. You letting me talk about this new journey I’m on is enough.
2.I need your help
Know that in the first days and weeks after a loss, just breathing is so difficult. I will need your help in getting through the day but I might not know what to ask for. I will need you to do my laundry, grocery shop for me, and help me remember to pay my bills. I don’t know how to ask for this, really. Anything you can do for me will help me breathe a little easier. Offer to babysit my babies or pick them up from school. The nanny that we had in Knoxville stepped up in a HUGE way when Erin was missing. She stayed late with Annabelle, cooked and cleaned for us, and was completely steady for us. I’ll never forget the amazing gift of her helping hands.
3.I need food
This is so important it gets its own category. I need food. I need you to cook for me, or grocery shop for me. Just make sure that I’m eating and drinking. It seems so automatic but in the midst of loss, I will forget to take care of myself and need your gentle reminders of how important this is. My mother-in-love was setup with meals for the first months after Erin’s death. I remember thinking what a blessing all of these people were to her. They took the huge burden of meal planning, shopping, and cooking off of her so that she could focus on her grief.
4.I want to be normal
But I won’t be. At least not right now…so I need you to cut me a little slack. I LOVE you and value our relationship so fiercely, but navigating this new life really is all-consuming. Please know that I do care about birthdays, promotions, and events in your life even if I can’t or don’t vocalize that right now. I hope that one day I will be the caring, generous friend that you’ve known but for today, please give me your grace and understanding if I seem absent and self-absorbed. People say that grief comes in waves. Some days I might be bobbing along and in control of the direction I’m going. Other days I’m going to be barely able to stay afloat. Please be there for those days. Make me laugh and send me texts or memes that have nothing to do with my loss. Remind me that there is life after death. Remind me of how desperately I need to be a part of that.
5.Mostly, I need your prayers
The truth is, like everyone else, I need your prayers. I need prayers for hope and peace. I need prayers to make it through birthdays, anniversaries, and the holiday seasons. I need prayers that the light of the world will drag me out of the darkness of grief. Please pray for me.
If you’re a friend of someone dealing with loss, do your best to love them through it. I hope this helps you to know their heart a little better.