Just recently, some people very close to me have experienced things that can only be described as painful and tragic. While we all face various difficulties in life, we're limited by what we have personally gone through. Even though we mean well, we aren't equipped to say things like, "I know just how you feel." We don't, in fact, know exactly how the other person feels. So what can we do to bring comfort to the one who is grieving?
We all go through essentially the same process when we grieve, but the way we manifest our emotions and the amount of time that we need to move from one stage to the next varies among individuals. And our grief can cause us to behave in strange ways. For example, when my mother passed away several years ago, I did something that I had never done before nor since that time. It was a cold but sunny December morning when I heard the news that she had passed on. I was in shock and disbelief, trying to still go about the business of the day. I remember going into our big walk-in closet to put some clothes away and suddenly I just collapsed on the floor in tears. My body up against the door, I sat in the darkness and cried for who knows how long. Eventually, my husband called to me from outside the closet. He asked if there was anything he could do to help me. I said no, I just needed some time alone... to grieve in the dark by myself. After awhile, I got up and left. Somehow, I was better after that. And I was grateful that my husband hadn't tried to coax me out of the closet. He was just there, asking me if I needed anything, not judging me for doing something really out of the ordinary for me.
Sometimes it's enough just to BE with someone in their sorrow, not trying to fix anything or analyze their feelings. Not probing, not judging, just being there for when they're ready to reach out and begin living again. Love expresses itself most beautifully in this way, when someone is unafraid to stand beside another who has experienced grief and loss. We may feel uncomfortable and helpless, but if we focus on the other person and not our own inadequacies, we'll usually find that they will lead the way in what they need.