Aiding Grieving Friends Even When You Don’t Have Words

I walk slowly into the room, willing myself not to cry again. I pull up the chair next to my Ama’s hospice bed. I expect her to turn her head like she had done a hundred times before. But she didn’t. Her almost lifeless stare was fixed in front of her. I then realized that she would never talk to me again. She couldn’t. She was too weak. She was ready to go home.

But I wasn’t ready. I was never ready for any of this. The kidney failure. The hospice. The funeral plans that my relatives discussed. The weak state that I saw her in every weekend I visited.

That week before she passed away, she just stopped fighting. If was the hardest thing to see. Her spirit had left her. Nothing was left but a heartbeat and an earthly shell.

Next Thursday at 4:30 in the afternoon, my dad emerges from his school conference, cell phone in hand and announces that my 92 year old Ama passed away only five minutes before.

I sat there stunned. The words rang in my ears, but they didn’t mean anything.

“Do you want to go to the house and see her one more time before they bring her to the funeral home?” my Dad asked quietly as we began to drive home.

Then it hit me. She was dead. I couldn’t avoid the truth about life. It is that there is death. But I couldn’t fight it anymore, I couldn’t be brave like I was those last 8 months. I shook my head and fought back tears as I looked in front of me.

When we arrived home, I was completely numb as I got out of the car. Somehow I made it to my room. I fell to the floor in a crumpled heap.

My heart was shattered. It ached beyond words and I couldn’t say or think anything. I drove my fist into the floor as my head burned with internal screams of anger towards God.

I lay there like a tangled knot on my bedroom floor as furious tears rolled down my cheeks.

“No.”

The words passed my lips before I broke down in uncontrollable, heaving sobs. I hated God. Provider? How can He be called “Jehovah Jirah” when he took away my best friend? It seemed that the world had come crashing down on me. And this time, I couldn’t be strong enough to face it on my own.

My mom knocked on the door asking me if I wanted dinner. When I didn’t reply, she left me alone. I curled up into bed and cried myself to sleep.

The next morning, I hoped to find comfort in my friends at school. I decided not to tell anyone about it. It would only set off another wave of emotions and create a scene.

I stared blankly at my math test.

“How is it only 11:30?” I asked myself as I picked up my pencil.I read and re-read the questions but none of them made sense.

“Kate?” asked my teacher, “Are you alright? You haven’t written anything since you’ve started.”

I broke down again unable to hold in my grief and hurt. She kindly told me that I could take the test on Monday because I was obviously not focused enough to do well right now.

By lunchtime, word had gotten out, but no one wanted to say anything. A few girls seated themselves at the lunch table I was sitting at, but I didn’t feel like talking to anyone of them or even listening if they wanted to heap Bible verses on me and preach too-good-to-be-true messages that sound all pretty and nice.

Thankfully none of them did. One girl just smiled at me and grasped my hand. And that was the most beautiful form of comfort someone could ever give me. They were just there.

Space and Time

When death takes away our loved ones, whether it be sudden or gradual, we hurt deeply. There is nothing that we can do to bring that person back. And that makes us feel completely hopeless and weak.

For the first couple days, I was glad that no one really talked about it to me. I just needed some time…and some space. Leave them alone for a while and when they need you they’ll come to you and then you can give them comfort.

Never Say…

Many people say things at funerals with good intentions, but it can come off as insensitive and hurtful to the person who has lost a loved one.

“I completely understand what you’re going through.”

This phrase was repeated multiple times by many people who came and talked to me. As they came up, hugged me and said this, I couldn’t help but think, “Sorry, you don’t actually understand what I’m going through.”

God has created us differently. Therefore, we grieve differently. No one can ever fully understand or even comprehend someone else’s depth of hurt and pain.

“He/She is in Heaven now. You don’t have to grieve.”

While this is true, it may not be the best time to say it. The death is fresh in our memory and we grieve whether people tell us to or not. Grieving is not a sin. It is ok and perfectly normal. God has given us a time to lament over a loved one’s passing and a time to rejoice. Do not rush someone out of the grieving process. Walk with them and wait for them as long as they need.

“It was his/her time to go. And anyway, God wanted him/her to be with Him.”

Please don’t say this. Please don’t. People said this to me and I almost started crying because it hurt me so deeply. So what if it was their time to go? I’m still here, left to hurt and grieve. I just want someone to be there for me. I don’t want answers. I want healing.

Beautiful Things That Bring Comfort 

“I am here for you. I am never too busy to talk to you. I am never too busy to listen. I am never too busy to cry with you.”

This is so comforting, more than you know:) This acknowledges their grieving process and doesn’t rush them.

Cry With Them…

Get on their level. Be sad with them. It will allow trust and vulnerability bonds to grow deeper and stronger. People will know you as friend, rather than counselor. They will know that you are there.

Don’t say anything.

This is the best one, honestly. A lot of times I hear from people at funerals, “Ah. I don’t know what to say.” And I’m like “It’s ok. You don’t have to say anything.” Just listen to them.

Know that we are not meant for this world. The pain. The suffering. The brokenness. When people are weak in doubt, be strong for them in prayer. We aren’t meant to fully understand and comprehend loved ones deaths. We can’t. It is simply beyond us. And that is ok. One day, we will be with Him. I have faith, fellow rebelutionaries, that I will one day see my Ama. She will not be as I remembered her, lying in a hospice bed with a sick, frail body. She will be dancing in the glory of her new body, praising forever the work of her Savior Jesus.

(1 Corinthians 15:52-57) For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

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4 thoughts on “Aiding Grieving Friends Even When You Don’t Have Words

  1. Kate, this post is so helpful. I’ve never been through this, and the other day I was wondering what I should say if one of my friends experienced the death of a loved one. This gave me the answers that I needed. Thank you!

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  2. This is beautiful and so accurate, Kate! I have one friend in particular who really helped me when my grandpa died a few years ago. Sometimes she didn’t even say any words, but it was so comforting to know that someone was there and grieving with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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