Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Not To Say Part VI: The Grieving Friend

Grief; deep sorrow, especially that caused by someones death. Misery. Sadness. Anguish. Pain. Agony. Heartbreak. Desolation. Despair. Torment.

Those words are so real to me.

Maybe they are to you, too....

And I was going to wait for this post because some might see it as a cry out from me or a complaint... But really, I just have too many hurting friends. It's needed.... I needed it then and they need it now.

Grief is what I believe to be the most raw and unforgiving emotion in existence. It follows you.... a dark shadow that you wish you could run from. In moments when the light seeps in, you know in the back of your mind that it's still right around the corner... waiting. It's a memory full of now fruitless hopes and dreams... a wish that came true in the cruelest of ways.

A lifetime without feeling the reality of those words wouldn't be long enough.

There isn't a rule book or a simple 'hot-to' for the walk through grief.

And there really isn't a rule book that outlines what to say to someone who is grieving.

Holding someone to any kind of standard in the cycle of grief just doesn't seem fair.... it isn't fair....

but in our purest desire to comfort and console, I've learned that sometimes.... just sometimes... a phrase that feels gentle and positive on it's way out.... can feel abrasive and painful on the receiving end.

I spent the past 7 weeks trying my hardest to wade through the never-ending tide of grief as I find my new normal without our precious #3. I have felt supported and encouraged by so many friends and family members who have soldiered around me to offer their strength in moments when I have none... in moments when the tide is coming and I just don't know if I'm going to find a way to move in time. The waves of sadness and anguish are often-times unexpected and they can be overwhelming... but they're always allowed.

"I'm praying for you." "I'm here if you need me." "What can we do to help?" "How are you holding up?"

But there's one.... that one comment that seems to be the most encouraging and uplifting on the surface.... and it's the one that carries the most potential to cause even deeper hurt.

"Aren't you so thankful for the 2 babies that you do have?"
"Just look at everything you have been blessed with."
"Doesn't this make you even more grateful?"

The most common response to grief.... coming from a place of concern... sinks into a place that cues guilt and shame.

As soon as those words are uttered, the conversation is over. The person who is hurting has no choice but to move on from the conversation ... a conversation that was necessary and needed.

"I'm so thankful for them!" "I am so blessed!" "I've never been more grateful!"

but the words hang close, leaving the taste of an implied sense of failure in the one who is grieving...

Those comments carry within them a challenge of sorts.... an "I dare you", so to speak.

The griever hears something completely different...

"How dare you focus so much on the loss of this baby when you have 2 right in front of you?"
"When will you move on and enjoy the things you do have?"
"Let's stop talking about this and talk about something else."

they carry the implication that your sadness isn't fair to your family.... or that you're taking too much time to grieve.... or that the moment is gone and it's time to move on...

But the thing about grief?

Rehashing over and over again to you.... is healing to them. Repetitious darkness and sadness to you... turn into a balm of hope and enlightenment for them.

How can I support someone wading through the quick-sand of grief?

One of my very best friends had distanced herself some in the week or so after our miscarriage and one day her text came...

"I just don't know what to say. I know you're hurting and I wish I could help but I don't know how. It's ok to hurt. I'm so sorry, Lindsay."

And that was enough. No expectations. No instructions or suggestions.

When grief consumes you, the permission to hurt keeps you afloat... but it's the knowledge that you'll never be left alone, no matter how much time passes or how long the sadness lasts or who you are on the other side, that brings the most healing to someones heart.

The day before Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16), he asked his closest friends to sit with him in the garden of Gethsemane while he prayed and the Bible says that he 'plunged into an agonizing sorrow."


"This sorrow is crushing my life out of me. Stay here please, and keep watch over me."

Jesus didn't want to be alone. He didn't ask for his friends to help him devise a plan or want them to fix the inevitable.

While Jesus grieved... in the moments when he was wrecked with anguish and torment over what he was facing, his friends got bored. They fell asleep.

"Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay awake for me!"
(Matthew 26:36-46)

Being the friend of someone in pain is not a job to be taken lightly... even Jesus' request for support in his darkest hour was too much for his friends to handle. It's hard. Walking this kind of path with someone can turn into a long-term position.... and it can be just as hard for the friend as it is for the one in need.

So you ask again...

How can I support someone wading through the quick-sand of grief?

Let them hurt. Remind them often that you hurt because they hurt. Be with them. Stay awake and alert.

And one day... hopefully not too soon... but one day... you'll have the most amazing friend keeping watch for you.


Click below to read through the What Not To Say series...

Part I: What not to say to someone struggling with infertility

Part II: Infertility Part II

Part III: What not to say to an adoptive parent

Part IV: What not to say to a birth mom

Part V: What not to say to a waiting, hopeful adoptive parent


  1. Thank you so much for this! Very well written and so true. The most helpful things said are just "we know you are hurting, and we are thinking of you." Just as simple as that! Love and hugs to you!

  2. Thank you so much for this. I wish I could hand this out to everyone. People had/have no idea how to deal with my grief. so many things people said cut. :(

  3. Thank you. We all experiencw grief in different ways. Truth is that we need to be more gentle with each other and with ourselves when it comes to loss. Pain and trial come in time to all of Gods children. You are doing a beautiful service to those who dont have the experience just yet.

  4. This is really, really good advice. I love that you tackled the comments of "but you should be so grateful for what you have." You are right, that cuts like a knife. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll be following yours now too... sisters in loss.


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