This past year has been one like none other. There is nothing in my lifetime to compare to what we all have experienced. We have had to adjust to sickness, lockdowns, job losses and death.
To date, there have been so many of my friends that have lost someone close to them. It has been devastating. Even if we understood that they were not well and all signs pointed to them not recovering, the fact that they are gone is not easily accepted. One day their family member is there, and the next they are gone.
In my faith, we are encouraged that even though death is hard, it should be celebrated because that person no longer has to live in this evil world or suffer in pain. They are now living in eternity with Christ Jesus. As much as our minds know this, our hearts tell a different story.
I don’t believe we need to act as if nothing is wrong. We need to grieve. We need to go through the process of understanding that my father, my son, my cousin will no longer be an arms reach away. Some of these relationships spanned decades. How can we help someone deal with that?
Let them express their emotions. Sometimes we feel like we always have to have the positive thing to say. And even though the motive is right, there are times they need to feel that pain and be allowed to express it. In my culture, there is this subtle unspoken statement that we need to be strong. Holding these kinds of emotions inside is unhealthy and does not allow the full process of grieving to happen. Allow them to cry, scream, whatever they need to in that moment.
Listen. When I’ve called my friends or dropped by to see how they were doing, it became an opportunity for them to tell me about their loved one. I could see the anguish in their eyes as they tried to hold back tears but still a smile was on their face as they remembered a particular memory. We don’t always have to talk to give comfort. Let them talk and just be there to listen. Your presence means more than you think.
Don’t take their periods of isolation personally. I’ve had some people get upset that phone calls or texts were not returned from the bereaved. This is not something to take as a attack on you. Sometimes they are so inundated with calls and feel overwhelmed. Other times they just don’t feel like speaking to anyone, and that should be okay. Give them the space they need. They know you have reached out and they will contact you when they are ready. Just be there when they do.
Do what you can to help. Offer to make them a meal or if they have children, to take them for a day to give them a break. I know with COVID it’s been difficult to see people but when lockdowns or stay-at-home restrictions have been lifted, do something kind to lift the load.
There is no one way to grieve and everyone does it differently. Being a friend means giving them the space to do it with love, patience and understanding.