She May Explode (But Probably Not)

April 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm 21 comments

How To Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 5

Talking with a grieving friend is like entering a minefield. You’re treading very carefully, weighing each word-step, wondering if this is going to set something off.

I’ve had questions from people about what specific things to say or not say, and I’m afraid I can’t speak definitively about how all grieving women want to be talked to. To be honest, I can’t even speak definitively about myself. It varies for me from day to day and sometimes moment by moment.

I remember being with family and friends on Felicity’s 2-month birthday. I was feeling like I wanted to talk about her all day, but no one asked. In those moments, the grieving person is really trapped.

If I bring this up, and steer the conversation away from politics or the weather, am I going to be seen as trying to dominate, or make the conversation all about me, or seen as trying to bring everyone in the group down?

If I bring this up, am I going to make someone else uncomfortable?

If I bring this up, the conversation changes drastically. Is that okay with everyone? Is that socially acceptable in this group right now?

I want to put this forward as a possible rule of thumb based on my own experience:

  • More often than not, if you’re close friends with her and are having a one-on-one conversation or if it’s a relaxed group situation and your friend feels pretty safe with the people around, it’s okay to tell her that you’ve been remembering her baby or have been praying for her.
  • When she’s in the lobby after church and she’s trying to manage her other children or corral them from the nursery or running through the aisles at the grocery store, it’s probably not the time to bring it up.

The grieving woman lives in a constant paradox—I am no longer the woman I used to be, and therefore, I am not “normal,” but also, I’m just another woman/wife/mother trying to live my life like everyone else.

In your conversations, it can be really refreshing if you help her feel normal. And other times it’s best if you make sure she knows that you are thinking of her special circumstances and have by no means forgotten her or her child.

It doesn’t always have to be a conversation. You can write a card. It can be 2 lines long! It can say something like, “I thought of you and your baby today. You are a good mom to your children.” Don’t worry about it having to be deep or ultra-spiritual. Chances are your friend will feel blessed knowing she’s not alone in remembering her baby (who she thinks of all the time).

I think a lot of people are afraid to bring up their friend’s loss, because they think they’ll set her off or make her cry. Something I’ve said jokingly, but mean with all sincerity is, “My tears are just below the surface. If you make me cry right now, it’s no major accomplishment.”

The grieving woman is well-acquainted with tears. They’re not as scary for her as they may be for you. So if you feel like you might “cause” her to cry, it’s not so much about whether she’s okay with it, but whether you can handle it. Is it okay with you if she cries?

Conversation with your altered, grieving friend can be really hard to navigate. She’s probably feeling out this new navigation thing, too. She’s not normal, but she is normal. If you would’ve gone up and talked to her after a service before her baby died, go up and talk to her after a service now, too.

She may be a minefield, but she probably won’t explode. And even if she does, it’s worth it, right?

(Read other posts in this series.)


Entry filed under: Grief.

There Is No Timetable She Can’t Grieve on Command

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shannon r  |  April 2, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Molly, Thank you for sharing all that you have this week. I feel better equipped to be better friend to my sisters who are hurting. Blessings to you and your family.

  • 2. Lisa S  |  April 2, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Your series has been so good for me. I am grieving my infant twins who recently passed away, one by one, to a fatal genetic disease. I know I’m not alone, but no one else I know has experienced what I’ve gone through. Thank you for identifying “The grieving woman lives in a constant paradox—I am no longer the woman I used to be, and therefore, I am not “normal,” but also, I’m just another woman/wife/mother trying to live my life like everyone else.” – that’s exactly how I feel. I have a blog where I have been journaling my grief journey and honoring the memories of my children. I would like to post a link to this series so my friends and family can understand what I am going through. You have written it with such clarity!

  • 3. merlotmudpies  |  April 2, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned. I wish I had been able to read this earlier on in some of my friends’ journeys through loss. I’m so glad to see it now.

  • 4. Chelsea  |  April 2, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Molly, I’ve been following your story recently. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve really learned a lot. I think that it will help me to serve families around me who have gone through a loss like this. I find myself thinking about you throughout the day. I read an article on Carolyn McCulley’s Radical Womanhood blog yesterday about the film, “The Silent Scream.” In light of your loss, the film (on abortion) seemed so much worse. I am praying for you and Abraham. Really, I am. I’m not just saying that.

    Your Sister in Christ…

  • 5. Rachel  |  April 3, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Molly, I have tried to comment on your blog before (the day your son visited my daughter’s preschool and the one about the beautiful “Molly Day”), but WordPress thwarted me.

    This current series is so good that I’m giving the comments another go. Thank you so much for posting this series. I have three babes in Heaven and this has helped me think through that grief and even grieve again along with you. Amen to the sleepiness and no sleep. Amen to the scatterbrain-ness. Amen to new role, but not new role. And yes, yes, to church lobby questioning. Oh, that was and is still so hard. And Amen to so much else that you have written.

    You are helping women on both sides of suffering. Thank you.


  • 6. Elizabeth  |  April 3, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I have not gone through the loss of child though several of my friends have. I appreciate your honesty and desire to help others serve the grieving mom.

    Another blog I read has a post reflecting on this same topic from a perspective of 12 years later.

  • 7. puremotif  |  April 3, 2008 at 6:36 am

    It is worth it…. this was a great post and I think addresses one of the most present struggles that people have when knowing how to talk to grieving women/people. We are always afraid of what to say, and certainly there can be wrong things to say, but it is interesting to note that people, if choosing the right time, can feel free to talk to you about your loss because it is of course ever present on your mind, and most likely present on theirs – especially if they are close to you.

  • 8. Marsel  |  April 3, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Excellent post…

  • 9. danielle  |  April 3, 2008 at 8:22 am

    I am really proud of you for writing this. I can tell it’s helping a lot of people. I hope it’s also helping you.

    Love you!

  • 10. jenny rigney  |  April 3, 2008 at 9:12 am

    molly- I have been reading this entire series and it has been so helpful. thank you for graciousy teaching us how to mourn with those who mourn. And just for the record, I think you are an incredible mother. Joe and I love the way that you and Abraham parent Orison. We have learned so much from your example. I love you, friend. I often thank the Lord for you and Felicity.

  • 11. Sarah D  |  April 3, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Thank you for doing this, Molly. You have covered some questions I have always had and things that I have longed to know concerning how to minister to people. Thank you for making yourself so vulnerable by sharing all of this with so many people you do not even know. What a way to minister to us!

  • 12. michelle  |  April 3, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    thank you for sharing these thoughts on grief. i had two miscarriages two years ago and went through some intense grief that i didn’t really share with anyone. now i have some friends who are going through difficult circumstances and it is good to read this from the perspective of someone currently grieving. thank you for sharing this!

  • 13. Jessica  |  April 3, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you.

  • 14. Rocks In My Dryer  |  April 3, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    This is an excellent series–it will be so helpful to many people. Grace and peace to you!

  • 15. Diana  |  April 4, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Since the Lord led me to your site, I am constantly checking to see if you have written more or if others have commented. I really appreciate you doing this. As I stated before, I lost my daughter 3 1/2 yrs. ago and I am still trying to sort it all out. I still yearn for someone to remember her. I can not go a day without thinking of her but it seems the rest of the family and friends have forgotten or just do not bring her up including my husband. He does subtle things but not a full conversation about her. Thank you for giving me this avenue to speake of her.

    God Bless

  • 16. shawnda  |  April 4, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Amen, sister! Thanks for sharing!!

  • 17. Nancy Carlson  |  April 6, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Your words are eloquent and so very true. My son died 5 1/2 years ago and I am “The grieving woman liveng in a constant paradox—I am no longer the woman I used to be, and therefore, I am not “normal,” but also, I’m just another woman/wife/mother trying to live my life like everyone else.”
    A dear friend sent me to this site who has watched me grieve and has been there through it all. If she would share how it felt to be such a close friend watching from the other side I know others would be blessed by what she endured as a grieving friend. There are not too many out there who give even when they don’t know what to say, are afraid what might happen, and continue long term to grieve right along with you.
    I so much appreciate her sharing these posts with me as your words have been welling up in my heart for so long. “My tears are just below the surface. If you make me cry right now, it’s no major accomplishment.”
    Thank you for not being afraid to post your feelings so others can learn to help.

    Our God is awesome!

  • 18. Kharis E  |  April 12, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you so very much for sharing your heart and such depths, you are teaching me so much. I have been praying for you and your family since I heard of your loss. This must be creating such deep deep waters in you… thank you for your openness and sharing. I appreciate it immensely.
    love, your sister in Christ,
    Kharis E

  • 19. Kendall  |  April 14, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    The experience that sticks in my mind when I read this post:
    About 3 months after we lost our daughter a dear friend came over to visit. She paused in front of the closed nursery door (which I had been unable to disassemble yet) and asked me almost shyly: “Do you mind if I look at her room?” I said she could – and stood in the doorway as my friend walked around the room touching the crib, the bassinet, and the blanket my mother had made for our beautiful, stillborn baby girl. She turned to me with the shine of tears in her eyes and said, “You know what, Kendall? I know I never met her – but I miss her.”
    And as I hugged her tightly, I thought, “Oh Lord… what a gift you’ve given me in this friend who knows what to say!”
    While so many grieve with my husband and I – and ache with sadness for what we are missing and how we must feel – this friend touched another area I needed: she made my lost baby girl a person – one whose presence in HER life would be missed.
    To this day (another 3 months have gone by) it still brings tears to my eyes to think of it. Her vulnerability, her openness, and her willingness to take part of the loss as hers was such a blessing – and continues to be so.
    Thanks for letting me share. 🙂

  • 20. hannah  |  May 12, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Wow! How old are you? I keep hearing the wisdom of my mother and she’s in her 60s now. Then I looked at your “About” and saw this beautiful young bride and her husband. What a lovely family you have!

    I found your blog today from my grieving friend, Rachel. She posted a link from her blog to this one. She lost her son a little over a year ago. He was almost 18 months old and the youngest of 5 children. (Number 6 is due any day now.) I had gotten to know their Knox in the nursery at church, as I am in the nursery every Sunday during Sunday School. Oh, how I miss him! Here it is a year later and I still am so profoundly and deeply sad and if I am still feeling this way, I know his family is feeling it so much deeper. Rachel and I have had many moments that you have described in these posts. Sometimes we cry together. Sometimes laugh. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s not. We (my husband, kids and I) pray everyday for them and our church as we walk this road together. I just wanted to say thanks for the insight. I am so sorry that you lost your little Felicity. I wish I had the words to say. You, Abraham and Orison are now in my thoughts and prayers.

    In Christ our hope,

  • 21. Leslie Camp  |  July 8, 2008 at 11:30 am

    After our loss, my husband and I returned to church on a Wednesday night for supper. We got there kind of early, so we were the first ones seated with our meal. As people came in, they started filing into the tables and seats the farthest away from us as possible. I guess they just didn’t know what to say to us, but it still hurt. These people who had given us the most generous of baby showers and were hugging our necks, telling us they loved us at the memorial for our baby, were scared to death of conversation with us now!

    After a while, a few of who we found to be our closest friends came in and made a bee line to sit next to us. They didn’t say a thing. They just sat with us and ate. We knew we were loved.


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