Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

When Friends Visit

Talking about grief with friends who haven’t lost someone close is a grab bag experience; you don’t know what reaction you’ll get. The reactions can range from sympathy to empathy to compassion on the positive side, and from indifference to anger to fear on the negative, as if your closeness with death will rub off on them.

You want the people with compassion.

Friends may think they know what you need to feel better — get outside and do yard work, go to the movies, get a tattoo (my sister’s idea), go kayaking, get drunk so that you can forget grief for a few hours. 

They might have religious books they think you should read, or a Russian novel that you can lose yourself in for a week. In happier times, they might be right.

Your sense of judgment is shot when you begin grieving, and you can’t gauge if what they’re saying is what you need right now. You probably have no idea what you need. And really, you’re just focused on getting through this hour, this day, and are blindly feeling your way through. 

If friends come in thinking that they know what you need before hearing you talk, politely ask them to leave. Listening to them might set your recovery back.

What does help are friends who listen to you share your thoughts and feelings. 

They work with what you say, ask questions that help you clarify your feelings, and help connect the pieces of your fragmented thoughts. Most of the time there are no answers no conclusions, just feelings and thoughts to ponder and hold until later when the fog that hides your life from yourself  finally clears.

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