I have a friend that lost his wife to cancer this summer. It was very quick from the diagnosis until it was over. The loss left my friend stunned, scared, and hurting. He is still struggling with the grief.
As we were texting earlier this week, he was sharing with me how some people were telling him he should be better by now and others are telling him he should be back to normal. My heart ached for my friend when I read his text that said, “I don’t know. It just hurts.”
I’m sure these people meant well, but I couldn’t help wonder how many of them have ever experienced the loss of a spouse, and how many of them would be going home to their spouse or loved one after talking with my friend.
It’s so easy to give advice about an experience we’ve never had based on how we think we’d handle the situation if it happened to us. The truth is we have no idea what someone is dealing with, unless we’ve gone through it ourselves. Even then, how each person handles a situation can be quite different.
I’ve never lost a spouse, and I’m not a grief counselor, so I don’t know the perfect way to respond to someone who’s grieving like my friend is. For me, I’m trying to show compassion by doing the following:
- Check in regularly via text, email, phone, or whatever the grieving person’s preferred method of communication is. Be sure to do continue doing this after it has become “old news” to everyone else. Chances are it still hurts for the grieving person.
- Acknowledge that the situation sucks, because it does. I’m not saying to wallow there and make it worse. Just let the grieving person know you’re aware of that fact.
- Just be quiet and listen. Let the conversation go where the other person takes it. Don’t worry about needing to say something to fill the silent pauses. Just be there with your ears and heart engaged.
Ultimately, I want to be a blessing to my grieving friend, because I know that’s what I’d want from my friends if I were the one grieving.