Apr 5, 2014

helping friends who grieve

Watching someone lose a loved one is really tough. The main feeling friends have is helplessness, I mean what do you say? What can you say? Nothing is going "make it better".

We have lost two significant people in the last 5 years. Both our Dads. One was sudden and one wasn't. Through both experiences I know what people need at times like this. Well, I should say, based on my own experience of what people (us) need.

Turn up. Come to the funeral whether specifically invited to or not. If you love the person who lost their loved ones, turn up. I was desperate for people to come to my Dad's funeral. It wasn't even rational but I wanted the people in my world there. To see who my Dad was and what he meant to me. I am pathetically grateful to my friends for making the effort to come.

Bring food. Even though flowers are lovely, the families that are grieving still need to eat. And in between trying to cope and organise a funeral, thinking about the next meal goes to the bottom of the list. It doesn't have to be home cooked meals either. My angel friend Meg turned up with groceries: things for the kids lunchboxes, things we could throw in the oven, bits and bobs we had run out of. It was the most amazing gift.

Be there. I remember with my beloved father-in-law specifically how certain friends just came over. Not to even bring anything or console us or with any agenda. Just to be with us. It brings to mind Job's friends who came and sat with him after he lost his whole world (before they went nutso and started giving random advice). They just were with him. The comfort of "you" is worth so much.

Do something. Often you can't physically be there or drop meals off. Maybe you live somewhere else. Just do something. Send a beautiful and heartfelt card - I look at Cat's one everyday. My favourite gift was from my other Meg- she sent a slideshow of her favourite verses and the photos she has taken over the years. It touched my Mom so much she asked for it to be played at the funeral. It was amazing.

Your friends need you when they grieve. But they may not be able to say so. I am so grateful to those who reached out to us and loved us. And still carry us even now.

My list:
38. Smoky scent of early morning
39. Steam rising off dew soaked wood in the early sun
40. Leaf edge glowing against the sun
41. Dried out flax seed soft and brown
42. Flash of a neon pink tutu among the green
43. Joyeous abandonment of an oak tree flinging its branched against the sky.
44. Coffee with a dear friend


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  1. Hey friend, this was good for me to read. I am completely opposite to all those things. When Dad passed away I just wanted to be left alone. In fact it was just such a hard time for me because it just didn't happen. We had rolling visitors both during the first couple of weeks here in nz and then back in China we had visitors for almost 2 months straight and I grew quite resentful. Mj knew how I was feeling but there just wasn't anything we could do about it. We all grieve so differently, and now, almost two years on, there are only two people I feel I truly want around me when I'm having a hard time without dad. I miss him so much. I have been praying for you, love muchly xx

  2. A wonderful list and so true....its all I would want too......and I think much of this applies to any other incredibly difficult situations that your friends maybe experiencing aswell :) xx

  3. beautifully said Sammy
    people need to know this...

    love and light

  4. When my dad died, the moment i cherish the most is when we were at the cemetery, the coffin was buried already, everything set, people had had their drinks and nibbles (a russian custom) and then as they started leaving... They finally left me alone. There were fewer and fewer and fewer people around me until at one moment, i was standing there alone, just me and that cross under barren trees and honestly, it is the moment i remember the most and cherish the most, because i finally felt like i'd been given space to just be

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your memory Maria, it's beautiful. Amazing how we all grieve so differently, you are the second person to have told of the space they needed. I usually crave time alone and all I wanted was people. I hope that you are ok x

    1. Yes, i'm okay :). I was 17 when dad died, so it's been many years that i've had to process and analyse and get used to it. It's much easier to talk about it now and in retrospect, it's all much clearer, too, so it's simpler now to say what were the things that helped me and what where the things that didn't - at the time, a lot of it was just confusing, though even then i could tell that that moment when i finally stood under that tree, alone with my dad, was filling, as opposed to grief which often felt emptying.

      I hope that you are okay.


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