Grief is an unfriendly and inconsiderate guest in this temporary home we call earth. It comes unexpectedly, not giving us a warning when it’s going to show up at our front door. We can never truly prepare for its appearance.
From losing my grandma at a young age to losing my brother five years ago and now my dad two and a half months ago, grief is no longer a stranger to me. It seems much too comfortable in the home of my heart to want to leave—and it’s taken on many different forms in my life.
It’s come in the form of losing my home and all of my belongings to a fire, it’s come in the form of saying goodbye to my home state and everyone I knew and loved, and it’s come in the form of losing my childhood home and rescue pup after my dad passed away.
Most people don’t experience such an immense grief by the time they’re my age. Heck, most people don’t even experience such immense grief in their lifetimes. And to be honest, at times it seems as if I’ve been hurt more by people who don’t know how to approach me in my grief than I have by been the grief itself.
So here are a few things grieving people wish non-grieving people knew.
(Side note: these may vary person to person. This is simply my experience.)
1. It hurts us when you’re afraid to talk about the loved one we lost.
My biggest hurt when I was grieving my brother’s death and now in grieving my dad’s death is nobody seems to want to talk about them to us. I beg you, please move past the awkwardness and uncomfortability and talk to us about the loved one we lost. We always want to talk about them, but most times we’re afraid other people don’t want to hear simply because they never ask or give us room to talk about them.
Only one person since my dad passed away asked me to talk about him, his life, and who he was to me and he died almost three months ago. This hurts. A lot. Friends, please know that one of the most healing things for a grieving person to do is to talk about the person they lost. It brings us so much joy that others want to talk about them, so please don’t be afraid to.
2. Our grief comes in waves that even we don’t expect.
There have been days where I woke up feeling great, then just a few hours later I sat in my car screaming and crying because the pain suddenly becomes overwhelming. The waves are often very unexpected—we can never predict when they’re going to hit. Please be patient with us and know that we’re doing the best we can.
3. Please be intentional with us.
Take us out on coffee dates. Text us encouraging reminders. Pull us aside and ask us how we’re genuinely doing. Be consistent.
It’s very easy for a grieving person to feel alone, so please remind us that we’re not by showing up for us. It means more than the world to us to know that we’re cared about, being prayed for, and being thought of. Truly nothing means more to us than your intentionality and simply being there for us, even if you don’t understand what we’re going through. We don’t expect you to. We just want your intentionality.
4. Don’t expect to understand our grieving process. We don’t either.
I can’t tell you why I can walk into a Kohl’s feeling perfectly fine then find myself on the bathroom floor 15 minutes later weeping because the pain suddenly became unbearable. I can’t tell you why I can be happy one moment then angry the next. I can’t tell you why I say things I don’t mean or act in ways I don’t mean to act.
Grief is something nobody has figured out. A grieving person might require more grace than most people, but please just trust that we’re doing the best we possibly can to figure out a healthy way to deal with the grief. It takes time.
5. Remind us that it’s okay to feel the messy emotions.
Grief is ugly. It comes with many messy emotions that we don’t want to feel and most times have the tendency to bottle down. We need to be reminded often that one of the most healing things we can is to embrace the messy emotions that come hand-in-hand with grief and to not be afraid of feeling them.
And please remind us to have grace for our mess and that it’s okay to make mistakes and to not be put together. Mistakes will will happen… Probably a lot. Please remind us that it’s okay and have grace for the process.
6. We just need a friend.
We don’t expect you to empathize with us or give advice. All we want is a shoulder to cry on when we’re hurting and someone to laugh with when we’re happy. There’s no pressure to know what to say and when to say it. Just be there. Be present. Be available. We need you and we need to know that we are loved and not fighting alone.
7. Please remember that we’re still very freshly wounded. Please be as gentle as you can with us.
You don’t have to walk on eggshells around us, but please keep in mind that we may be more sensitive than most people.
8. Crying doesn’t mean we’re not okay.
Don’t be afraid or taken aback if we suddenly start crying. It’s actually the healthiest thing we can do for our grief. It’s a good thing. Just cry with us. Hug us. Pray for us. And remind us that we are safe to fall apart whenever and wherever.
9. Don’t expect us to be okay or not okay after a certain amount of time.
Grief lasts a lifetime. It will lessen with time, but we will never be okay with losing a loved one. I’ll never be okay with telling my future children that they have an uncle who died when he was in college and I’ll never be okay with having to walk down the aisle without my dad holding my arm.
Grief has a different timeline for each person. Some people heal quicker than others and some people take a little extra tender love and care.
Please don’t expect our timeline to look a certain way. Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic things someone can walk through and takes plenty of time to heal from it.
And last but not least…
10. Don’t assume what we need. Just ask us.
This is one of the most important things to remember because more often than not, your assumption of what we need is wrong.
Don’t assume we need space. Don’t assume we need to be alone.
Just ask us what we need, and if at the moment we don’t even know what we need, remind us that you’re there to help when we do. It means the world to us when you intentionally ask us what we need without assuming you know our needs.
Words truly can’t express how thankful the grieving person is for those who bend over backwards for us in our time of grief. One of the biggest factors that helps a us overcome the grief is to know that we have people in our corner who love us, care for us, and support us unconditionally. We truly can’t do it without your friendship.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”