She Can’t Grieve on Command
How To Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 6
I tend to be a rule-follower. I like to follow instructions. That’s why I knit and I don’t do interior design. I get to follow a pattern when I knit. I get to check off the boxes in my mind as I go down the pattern—DONE! Wow, that feels good.
That’s not how it is when you’re grieving. That’s not how it will be if you persevere in friendship with a grieving person. It’s more like a spontaneous dance or some kind of unfunny improv. And if you’re like me, that can be anything from annoying to downright infuriating.
In my last post I said it’s often good to talk to your grieving friend about her loss. Now I’m going to turn around and tell you it’s not good. Sort of. It’s complicated.
I’ve had a lot of people come up and ask me how I’m doing because they want to know me in this hard time. Sometimes I’m able to engage emotionally. But when someone asks me how I’m doing and in that moment I’m struggling to just be a normal woman (as opposed to a weepy one), I don’t know how to respond. I don’t always want to grieve or open up.
I really appreciate their concern and prayers. What I’ve discovered, though, is that this kind of conversation can accidentally place a burden on the friend grieving to “have a moment” right then.
I try to receive graciously, because I know that it comes from my friend’s genuine care for me. I know it, but I don’t always feel it. Often all I feel is a huge expectation from that person: “Grieve—now!”
I know these kinds of interactions happen because I don’t get to see these friends regularly and they are trying to seize the moment to let me know they care. But it’s just not possible for me to turn it on. I can’t grieve on command.
So if you are an acquaintance of a grieving person and you try to find out how she’s doing (out of sincere love and concern) you might get a response like, “Today’s a good day. Thanks for asking,” or “Today has been kind of hard. Thanks for asking.” This might not be what you expected. Perhaps she’s not letting you in emotionally the way you were hoping. But please accept whatever she can give you even if it’s not much.
Just be sure to hear the second part of her answer—“Thanks for asking.”
(Read other posts in this series.)
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