A friend came over for coffee. Before she came, I ran around a little bit getting my house tidy, not because I was worried about what she thought, but because I’ve been writing. A lot. And my home tends to get neglected when I’m writing. Neglected as in the groceries from the other day are still sitting on the kitchen floor where I dumped them because I had a very good idea I had to get down before I forgot it.
But that’s not what this post is about.
This friend is a new friend (I love that phrase ‘new friend’), and she recently lost someone very dear to her. I haven’t seen her since this loved one’s death, and I was a little worried. How does one act around a friend who’s lost a loved one? How does one come alongside and offer comfort?
There are some things that I never feel equal to, and this is one of them.
And then I thought: hello, it’s not about me. It’s about my friend and her loss. And then God spoke clear as a shiny brass bell.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
I had to look it up. I thought it was in Proverbs. Nope. Romans. Romans 12:15 to be exact.
I wondered what it meant. I mean—got it—mourn with my friend. But how?
And then I realized how uncomfortable death is to so many of us. And how grieving is uncomfortable for many of us. Especially a friend when his or her grief doesn’t really touch us because we didn’t know the person they’ve lost. We feel our friend’s grief, but our instinct can be to try to cheer them up rather than let them go through it. And grief can’t be rushed. There’s no short-cut through the process.
I believe the best thing we can do is simply listen. Acknowledge what stage our friend is in. Grief has its own particular timeline: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and those stages aren’t a neat, straight line. Perhaps a friend is depressed one day and then back angry the next—it’s okay. Perhaps they feel all five in the course of an hour or a minute. That’s okay too. Be there for them. Listen. We shouldn’t try to pull them along so we’ll feel more comfortable.
All of this flashed through my mind in the hour or so before my friend came.
She showed up with coffees and sat down on my couch. I fed her chocolate chip cookies and asked her about her loved one. She talked, shared about his life, cried and laughed for an hour. I didn’t try to cheer her up. I didn’t try to tell her how she should be feeling.
I just. . .listened.
It was—at the risk of sounding kinda corny—a sacred time, and I was privileged to hear her memories and the plans she has for her future. This huge hole is always going to be in my friend’s heart. This person, this loved one, is unique and will never be replaced. But I think—I hope—I was part of the healing process for her.
Do you have any advice to offer those whose friends are in mourning? Any strategies you’ve found helpful?