I have felt both isolated and affirmed by others while grieving. It’s lonely when people don’t know what to say so as a result they just don’t say anything. But at the same time the feelings that go with being on the knife edge of grief let me know that I am very much alive, steeped in both love and loss. This makes me feel connected to the world in a profound way. And when people reach out to me in whatever ways they are able, it has made me feel intensely grateful.
I’m not saying that I give grief a five star Yelp review for being a great part of life. But it is intrinsic to life. And, for me, there have been surprising comforts within it, including and especially from people showing up.
Here is what I’ve learned on how to be with people (whether “with them” is remotely or in person):
Showing love is always, always better than not saying or doing anything at all. Specific gestures or offers are much better than general “let me know how I can help’s”. Food, errands, coming over and hanging out, airline miles, picking up the kids and taking them to a movie, etc are examples. Pick up the phone, send the text, or send a letter but do not expect an affirmation or a response: just give it as an act of love. Do not say things like “it’s part of god’s plan” or “stay strong” – that is the whole point of grief is that there is no reason behind it or the tear it leaves in the world, and we are not going to be strong when we are grappling with that. Listen. Be very judicious about timing if you are sharing your experience, and first ask yourself the question of relevance.
Our lives are multifaceted. Happiness is often bound up in grief is bound up in joy is bound up in profound loss. Grief doesn’t come from a cookie cutter, and there’s no one way to approach it. We just have to continue to care deeply, for ourselves and one another and the life we all share, and fumble around in a continued attempt to be there for each other when we are most needed.
Speaking of which. A close friend of mine is going through something no one of us should ever have to endure. I don’t mean that hyperbolically. She has given the people who care about her an amazing opportunity to help, so I am sharing that ask here. Please contribute if you can and help support this family that is experiencing terrible loss, and are trying to do so together. The response has already been incredibly moving, but this is going to be a long process so the financial support will need to last.