By Suzanne Hillegas
Being a good friend can be challenging, especially when a friend is walking through grief. Often you have no idea what to do or say. As a result – nothing is done. Nothing is said. And your grieving friend has received nothing from you.
Consider these five concepts when walking with a friend through grief.
First: Emotions run high and in all directions, her emotions, the emotions of her family.
As a friend: Purpose to hold the emotions of your grieving friend. Invite your friend for coffee, take her to the movies. She might greatly appreciate it, or laugh, or cry. Or she may sit like a mute. Grief is a wild and untamed thing. Create a loving space for her to be and purpose to be in that space with her.
Second: Life continues to need her attention. If the grief is over the death of a loved one, she has to deal with funeral arrangements and the household that was left behind while still keeping her household running.
As a friend: Call her and ask her if there are any errands you can help run with her. Don’t try to do the errands for her, just offer to chauffer her around and then take her to lunch. Everything that used to be easy and rote for her is now difficult and hard. Your simple gesture can be life giving for her.
Third: The questions start coming. Why? Why now? Why here? What caused it? Could it have been prevented? What circumstances needed to be different? Why me? Why my family? There will be more questions than answers. Always. There are healthy questions. There are unhealthy questions.
As a friend: You can help her sort through these questions. DO NOT just quote scripture verses at her when she asks these hard questions. She will shut down. Purpose to encourage her with scripture and remind her of God’s truth and grace, but you need to do it gently and kindly. It is okay for you to say, “I don’t know.” “These are hard questions.” “I think that question is unhealthy and we should focus on some of the other ones.” “Let me think about that for a few days and get back to you.” But more than anything she needs a safe place to express herself. One day she will have a 1000 questions, the next day she will have none. Each day is part of the process. Meet her where she is.
Fourth: Whatever thing seems to be the most difficult thing to do, that is the thing she must do! It will be the darkest, hardest most agonizing anticipation, but this thing is what puts her on the road to healing.
As a friend: Encourage, encourage, encourage. What is a giant step for your friend may seem like a baby step to you, but that is the strangeness of grief. The goal is to keep your friend moving forward even if it is micro steps. Forward motion provides healing. This is true friendship.
Fifth: Finding Healing. Everyone will tell her that it takes time, but when she is only a week, a month, or even a year out from the loss this truth is of little consolation.
As a friend: Purpose to be in those days and be in that time with your grieving friend. Crowds circle for the first few weeks, but it is the friend that keeps calling, continuously offering kind spaces to be that allow for true healing to begin.
Be the friend you want to be. Be the friend you need to be. Be the friend your grieving friend doesn’t even know she needs.
My name is Suzanne Hillegas, but my friends and family call me Suzy. I enjoy living in the Pacific Northwest with my husband Tim. I spent many years single but have had the privilege of being married to the best guy in the world since July 2012. Friends and family are where I would choose to spend all of my time, but the groceries do have to be purchased, the laundry does have to get done, and being a contributing part of my household is important. In 2014 I was gifted the privilege of becoming a mother. My son has brought tremendous joy to our household and was absolutely worth the wait!
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