How to Help a Grieving Friend
I will hold your hand and walk with you in the dark.
Recently, when my best friend went through a devastating, difficult divorce, she turned into a bundle of nerves and tangled thoughts and feelings. It was as though she had entered through the gates of hell, had met the devil, and had become possessed. She was falling absolutely into pieces, and she was on a fast roller coaster ride, orbiting, twisting, and turning up and down and around with no knowledge of where the pause or stop button on her emotional self was located.
It was definitely a really hard time for her. It lasted for a while as her emotional injury wound went through the whole cycle of oozing, bleeding, drying out, the new skin appearing, the old scab peeling off, and finally the new skin surfacing and covering the old wound. Thankfully, in her case, it left no scar behind. But nevertheless, it was like she was broken in half by her divorce and she needed to be whole again.
Now, I am always looking to be complete, even though deep in my heart I believe the only time that we are really whole is at our birth and at our death, when we are one with the whole universe. Still, I always thrive to be whole, whether it is through art, music, literature, or love.
Imagine how hard it was for me to find the best and most effective way to reach out and connect to her completely, from the depth of my heart and my soul. Of course, routinely I knew I could utter to her all the cliché talk that you hear from friends and family when you are in distress, like, “I love and I care for you,” “You are very important to me and I am here for you,” “This pain will not last long. It will eventually go away,” “You are strong and will overcome it,” and so on and so on.
Yes, of course, I thought of everything positive I could say to her, but I was also aware that I did not want to minimize her pain and state of her devastation and suffering, which was very real and significant to her. I was not there to fix her problems or command her to snap out of it, but I was there to enter her head and her soul space in order to completely understand and be a comfort to her. I had to see and feel as she did, and as a result, make her see that I am right there with her and very much by her side — not just peering in from outside, preaching sympathetic pretty correct words. I had to make her see that I was there to help her pick up the broken pieces spreading all over her heart. I was there to help her get up and go on with her life again .
I think the bottom line is: when we are in the middle of experiencing emotionally difficult times, all we need is a witness to our pain until we can figure things out for ourselves. Sometimes, just listening well and really hearing the other person and being completely present and letting the other person be exactly the way she wants to be is the answer. Sometimes, just being in tune, being simple, and being honest with her and trying to invite a smile on her lips in between her river of tears would be a godly, marvelous thing.