Not long ago I wrote a post called “The Monster Called Grief”. It talked about how grief just seeps in through every aspect of your life. That first moment after the tragedy that you feel peace, grief comes sweeping in. That first moment you are able to eat, grief comes sweeping in. That first moment you are able to smile, grief comes sweeping in. That first moment you are able to function with some sort of normalcy, grief for sure, comes seeping in and takes that away from you. It attacks when you least expect it, when you think you might be okay. Satan uses it as a tool to hurt the people Jesus loves most. He uses it to make people think it’s not worth it, life’s not worth it, they’re not worth it.
So how do you help someone grieving? I’ve been asking myself this question every single day since 3 weeks ago when my husband lost his brother, the man he looked up to for most of his life. I mean I should know the answer to this question…I lost my Mom 6 months ago. The woman that made all of our worlds go round. The glue to our family. The person I called day or night for any problem I may have had; my person. I should know. I should have known in that moment I got the phone call and I knew our lives were going to change again forever, and he didn’t know yet. I should have known what to do next…because I have felt the unimaginable pain of a loss. I should have known what to do—but I didn’t.
I didn’t know exactly what to do to comfort him. I didn’t know. It was painfully different, and I just didn’t know. Every grief story is painfully and uniquely different; so I didn’t know. I called my sister because she was at the house where he was asleep and I was at the gym. I didn’t know. She woke up my Dad because he had been through something similar, she didn’t know. As I drove home as fast as I could they broke the news to him that someone he deeply and truly loved had went to be with Jesus.
None of us knew what to do. He didn’t know what to do. Our family didn’t know what to do. What we did know, is we had to be there for each other in the best way we knew how. So when he woke up I had Taco Johns breakfast burritos ready, because I didn’t know but I knew he’d be hungry. I did laundry and cleaned out the car, because I didn’t know but I knew we would need to travel. I didn’t know what to say, or how to be, but I sat there anyway.
Grief is a hard thing because no one grieves the same, and no situation is the same. Even if it’s the same person everyone in the relationship is uniquely different which makes the grieving process so different. So how do we help the person that we love go through this process, how do we make sure they make it out okay if we are on the other side. If we are the person that lost someone important to them how do we make sure we are okay.
There is no black and white answer. If we lost someone we love-we pray, we hope, and we focus on the things they would have wanted us to focus on. We get up, get dressed, and go through the motions until one day we aren’t just going through the motions. We read the Bible and find community in church or with godly friends even if we don’t want too. Even if we are confused or mad at God, we do it anyway because this isn’t a battle that can be done alone.
If someone we love is suffering an unimaginable loss we try to be patient. We try to understand, even though we can’t, even though if the opportunity were presented they would not want us to understand because the pain is unimaginable. We try. When they get angry over something they normally wouldn’t we try to understand. When they are so very exhausted because grief alone is exhausting not even including the rest of life’s responsibilities, we try to understand. When they do something out of character we assume it’s an anniversary of something that breaks their heart, a memory they can’t handle, or just a big wave day that is crushing them—and we try to give them grace.
Grief is painful, and it’s real. So many people I know have suffered horrible losses in their life recently that make absolutely no sense. So how do we help them? I’m not sure. What I do know, is what helped me. The food, I didn’t eat but we had kids to feed. Oh my goodness that was a blessing, because those beautiful little mouths were hungry, and I didn’t even know it was time to eat.
The phone calls and texts of people checking in, they didn’t know what to say but they said something. The people I thought loved me that said nothing at all was like a sting I had never felt before. It didn’t matter their reasoning whether they didn’t know what to say or they were just busy. You may feel like you’re over stepping but at least they will know you care.
The gifts and cards people dropped off, some of them I didn’t even fully see until months later because I was in survival mode but they warmed my heart to no end. I felt the love in each gift and each card I read, it’s been 6 months since we lost my Mom and we are still working on thank you cards because of how much love people showed us. There’s also a lot of days we still don’t even believe it’s real that she’s not coming back, so things like that have gotten pushed aside. The inspirational books helped a lot, they were hard to read at first but they were a tool I could use when I was ready.
Eventually the rest of the world will go back to life as usual. Everyone but you. You will have to understand that people will come to you with a silly problem that they think is a real problem, be understanding. You will have to get used to the fact that people expect you to be over it, or at least not be stuck in the middle of the grief explosion. You will have to understand that they will forget your life just got turned upside down—but you don’t want them to understand. You don’t want the people you love to feel that kind of pain. You may think you want them to understand the heart-wrenching, anxiety filled, unbearable pain you feel but you don’t want them too—because then even you won’t know what to do.
After I lost my mom I was broken and my husband helped hold me together. Then we got a phone call that broke him too, because life isn’t fair. Horrible things happen and we can just sit there and watch the damage unfold or we can get up and help in whatever way we can. We can make the conscious choice to get up everyday and try harder than the day before. Whether it’s the person grieving, or the loved one of the grieving person-or for us, a mixture of the two.
You may not know what to do but you can do something, the worst thing you can do for them is nothing. Don’t ever, in any way shape or form take for granted your loved ones. Help those that don’t want help, be there for those that don’t even know what they need. Just show you care; be patient and understanding, show grace when you can’t understand, take care of yourself so you can be strong enough to help them. Love, Sarah