After my brother passed away, some people did nothing and said nothing. Some people did a little. And some stuck around for a few weeks and then I was my own.
Grief is painful. Grief is unbearable and grief is lonely. Even when surrounded by people I feel alone. For an emotion this isolating, facing down the demons by yourself is terrifying, exhausting, and disheartening. But I know why people are hesitant to reach out to me.
It’s not because they mean any harm. It’s not because they want me to suffer. It’s because they are scared. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, and so they often say nothing at all. If we’re honest with ourselves, I think everyone has been in this situation at some point in their lives: wanting to be there for their loved one in your life but remaining paralyzed.
But trust me when I say that addressing the pain of your grieving friend is the best thing you can do for them. Don’t worry: you aren't reminding them of the subject of loss and grief. We are well aware of what we have lost and the pain that it is causing.
If you don't bring it up, to me, it means you have moved on and don't care. As grievers, we are painfully aware of our loss, every second of every day. It is like the 'elephant in the room' if you don't bring it up. We can feel the tension and awkwardness.
So don’t be afraid to speak up. It might take a bit of courage to get started, but once you do, both you and your grieving loved one will be so glad you did. You aren’t opening up an old wound by talking about the pain. You are giving someone the chance to be heard, be comforted, and be validated for the whirlwind of emotions they are going through.
We always say to “check up on your friends”. But what you must realize is that your grieving friend needs love and support long after the initial pain has occurred. Receiving messages from friends offering their thoughts, prayers, and company is common for the first week or two. However, who is there for us a month later, or a year later when the cause of our pain has faded from most people’s minds?
Grievers need support throughout the entirety of their healing journey. Maybe you brought them homemade meals during the first week. Maybe you asked them out on lunch dates on the weekends following their loss. Maybe family came to visit during that first awful month. But as time went on, the support steadily grew less and less, like a faucet dripping itself dry.
Reach out to those grieving friends weeks, months, and even years later. Ask them if they want to talk about what happened and reminisce on the happy memories they had with the person they lost, or just invite them out for a day of fun and companionship.
You never know when your simple gesture could be the helping hand someone needs to pull them out of an extremely dark, sad, and scary place of resurging grief.
In my own case, for months, many people just decided that they didn't want to bring it up. But how about checking on grievers, checking if we are ok, asking what you can do to help, remembering birthdays and anniversaries. That way we feel supported and maybe, just maybe, a little less alone.