grief 101: end the urge to fix them & be present in their process.
If you know someone going through something, may I offer a word (or a couple hundred) of advice?
Don’t try to fix it.
Don’t try to fix them or their marriage or their health.
Don’t try to fix their child.
That’s not your role.
Let them be broken, however they want to spill out in front of you.
Don’t avoid the pain. It will feel uncomfortable at times, but life is not a series of comfortable events. Try your hardest to be present, to not just say “I’m sorry,” but let the tense or fragile feelings linger. The air will crackle with awkwardness, it will, but hold eye contact and be a safe place for them. It’s hard to do. But it’s better than sweeping their brokenness up into a pan and throwing it in the garbage so you don’t have to look at it’s shards.
Yeah, they may cut you too, with their inconvenience and heaviness, but it’s never as deep as their pain. So, if you’re up for it, come alongside them.
Mere mortals will never be a salve to heal wounds, but they can be physically present in the process.
Wading through life involves loads of pain. It just does. I think the sticky residue of pain and process is always clinging to the corners of our hands, like spilled juice. We clean up the mess on the floor, but it clings to our creases.
Trust your instinct. If you think of them, run that meal over right now. Don’t put it off. Send that card, that gift, drop off that item on their doorstep (as long as it’s not self help books) and send that text. More often than not, they are never getting enough support. Or if they are, they can always use more as time passes. Everyone jumps in to help at the point of crisis, but the hands pull back with the rhythms of life, as expected, and as the months go on. The pain doesn’t though. It takes time.
And if you’re don’t have space for them as time moves forward, that is okay. We all have our own lives. Perhaps the biggest upset at our breaking points, is when we realize we have to carry our own burdens. Although community may come along and nourish us, clean our house, sit with us, they are not there in the middle of the night, when the sorrow lays like a quilt, heavy and dense with complexities.
But, you can still be there for a little while, with your time and patience and your offers to come over and watch a movie. Don’t feel guilty if you haven’t offered anything to them ever. Start now. Yes, four months, three years later. Be the willing one that comes intentionally, the one who doesn’t have all the answers, who understands they are not the remedy but are capable of a lot of love and care, nevertheless.
No answers needed. No remedy.
Just be there.