Monday, February 25, 2013

Grief Lesson 101

I wish people had known what to do and what to say to me when I was going through my deepest pain, so I put together a list of 10 things that I think are most important to know when someone close to you is going through grief.

1. Never, I repeat NEVER, say that God has a plan
Now this may sound hypocritical coming from a Christian, but hear me out. In the days after my brother died I heard that more than a hundred times, probably 10 times that, and all I learned from it was that no one knew what to say. This phrase become so overused that I ceased to hear what the words meant, there ceased to be any comfort in them for me. This was just a phrase that people who had no idea what to say would blurt out so that they could pat themselves on the back for comforting a grieving person. DON'T USE CLICHES. It just says that you don't care about the person.

2. Dont just say you are there for the person, FIND A WAY TO BE THERE
Yes this is somewhat like number one but it is worth being said. So many people came up to me and said "if there is any way I can help just let me know". At the time I didn't know how to help myself much less tell other people how to. If you really want to be there, do something for them. Clean their house, make them dinners, do the menial stuff. It may seem like they don't notice you at first but rest assured, they do. So many people sent flowers and cards but the people who ended up meaning the most to my family were the people that stuck with us and did the little things.

3. Silence is okay- presence is necessary
I think people today are scared of silence, are scared of the awkward moments with a grieving person. So many people don't know what to say so they avoid you. I really thought that people would be there for me, but never was I proven more wrong. Best friends became strangers in the matter of days. I lost countless friends because they didn't know what to say to me. What they needed to know what that I never expected them to know what to say, I only wanted them to be there with me, to feel my pain with me.

4. Don't pretend like it never happened
So many people think that they can't mention the person's name that you are grieving for fear that it will set you off. But I cant stand this. My brother lived, and he lived every moment of every day, and it is a shame to his memory that people pretend like he never was even there. One of my "friends" asked why I like to talk about Patrick because "wouldn't that just remind you of the pain?" What people need to realize is that I will never forget, there is no reminding for me because it is always on my mind. Hearing stories about my brother makes me happy and makes me realize that I had something so special. My family tells stories all the time about my brother and we laugh at them . We miss him but we still love to hear about him.

5. Time is different for grieving people
"Time heals all wounds" is probably the stupidest thing I have ever heard, not because it isn't true but because it is misleading. In two weeks it will be one year for my family and I don't think I have even begun the journey to healing yet. Time is the ultimate paradox in my world. Each day could not go slower, it feels like I wake up in the morning and immediately long to have the day be over and in my bed again that night. Yet when I look back at this past year it feels like it was a blink of an eye. The pain is still as real to me today as it was on March 8th.

6. Grief can feel so much like fear
If you want to know somewhat what grief feels like imagine the time you were the most anxious, most worried, most afraid for something and apply that to every day. I am terrified all the time but I have no idea of what. I worry for my future, that this pain will never end. I am scared that I will forget my brother. I am afraid that this pain will go away (as contradictory as that sounds). It feels like there is something missing in every moment of every day, there is no contentment.

I have learned through my journey that there are many different types of hurt and each are very valid but there is a line. You do not compare grief. So many people came up to me and told me that they understand me because their 85 year old grandpa died last year. I completely get it that you may have been close to your grandfather but don't tell me that you understand. I lost my 18 year old brother. Completely different. The best was when someone told me that they understood because they lost their dog. I wont even begin to describe how bad that is. Although even when there is severe pain and loss, do not compare grief. It will become a battle of who is hurting more and instead of being comforting, it tears you apart. Just be with the other person in their pain.

8. Don't overdo it on the God stuff
Let the person find out what God has to say about death and life themselves, don't shove it down their throats. I had a really hard time finding comfort in the scriptures at the beginning and so many of my christian friends kept feeding me bible verses and christian sayings because they thought they were being comforting. I would come to realize everything God had to say on my own time but in the mean time I needed people to understand that I wasn't blaming God, I just was not exactly a fan of His, and that is okay.

9. The issue will never go away
There are times when I feel really bad for my friends. They can listen to me for hours on end saying how much I miss my brother, and then the next day I will say the same exact thing. I will tell the same stories, cry over the same picture,and repeat all of my worries and fears, yet there is nothing anyone can do to make them magically go away. Just be prepared to listen again, and again, and again.

10. Grief is so not pretty
You know when you see people cry in the movies, with one tear staining their cheek and still being able to ramble off some eloquent speech, ya it's not like that at all. I now know the meaning of the word "weep". A lot of people think it is just crying heavily, no. It is something so much deeper than sadness. It is an outcry of the pain that is in one's heart. I have experienced tears in many public places over the past year and I can't even begin to describe the looks people have given me. When I cry my face takes on a strange resemblance to someone suffering from a severe allergic reaction and stays that way for quite a long while. Even I have to admit it is repulsive. So if you want to be there for a person who is mourning, brace yourself.


  1. Hey Laura! You probably don't know me...I'm from Oakwood church. Matt Fisher posted a link to this post. I just wanted to let you know that your "grief lesson" is appreciated; it was really meaningful and valuable to me. You and your family are in my thoughts.

    -Joel Pollen

  2. Thank you for your very insightful lessons. I appreciate your sharing them with us all. God teach us to love each other well when the pain of loss blows up our status quo.