Grief is a funny thing. My husband and I attend a support grief for adults that have lost a love one in a traumatic way. We met last night, and we’re all agree on one thing: our grief affects our friends and acquaintances in strange ways. We all know and understand that people are trying to be nice. They really are. They’re trying. And some of them succeed in meeting our needs with flying colors. Others fall short.
Well, that’s kind of a harsh thing to say, right? Not really. I’m not blaming anyone for falling short. I think people are not well equipped to handle other people’s grief. I know. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. There’s always an awkward moment of what to say and what to do. And often times, for those around us, it comes out all wrong. “How are you doing?” “Are you doing okay?” “Well, God won’t give you more than you can handle.” “Your brother is in a better place.” Yeah. I know. He’s not hurting anymore, and I’m grateful for that. He IS in a better place. But I don’t need for anyone else to tell me that. And how do you think I’m doing? Even last night at my support group I caught myself answering that question in the most chipper voice possible, “I’m doing good, and you?” And then I laughed at myself.
We are so used to having to hide our pain. We don’t want to scare off our friends. We don’t want them to think we’re going to lose it every time they ask how we’re doing. We don’t want our friends to run away screaming, because we cried yet again. So, we lie. “Yes, I’m doing good.” “I’m doing okay, today.” Or we just quickly change the subject, for no one wants to know how we really are, right? Boy, are we stupid. The only people we are hurting by hiding our pain is ourselves. If our friends can’t handle the truth (insert movie quote here…”You can’t handle the truth!”) then they’re not truly our friends. I have found that my true friends really do want to know how I’m doing. They are okay with listening to me vent and watching me cry, and some of them even cry with me. What a treasure and a blessing to have friends like that.
Then there are those ill equipped people that I mentioned above. It’s really hard to understand the grief process if you’ve never been through it. It’s hard for people to grasp and sympathize with our forgetfulness, laziness, and bouts of crying. And while these people still mean well and only want to help, their words can be hurtful and angering. “You’re crying again?” “Each step you take should get easier!” “Aren’t you feeling any better yet?” Hey, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. There is no timeline on grief. Nope. None of this, well, it’s been two years now, aren’t you better? Listen, I lost my mom 19 years ago and I still cry at Christmas and Mother’s Day. And yeah, it’s been 11 weeks since I lost my brother, and I’m not even close to being okay with that.
No matter when or how you may have lost your loved one…take your time grieving. Don’t let anyone put a timeline on your grief. It’s yours and yours alone. We all are doing the best we can. Some days are great, and then we’ll have a setback. Don’t let the setbacks crush your spirit. It’s just a blip in the road. Lay in bed and cry if you need to. Get up tomorrow and take another step forward. What’s that song, one step forward and two steps back…I find this a true phrase for grief. Just when we think we’ve taken one step forward, we hear a sentimental song or find an old picture or text message and take two steps back. Way back. And that’s okay. Just remember that even though the words may not be exactly what we want or need to hear, our loved ones are trying. They’re also doing the best they can, and we need to appreciate every stupid word they say for what they really mean…they love us.