Our community is weathering the sudden and devastating loss of a vibrant young man, and we're all trying to learn what life looks like in the face of such a tragic loss. People are hurting and asking questions about life, about purpose, and about why God would let something like this happen. It just doesn't make sense to any of us, really. And I find myself asking again, "God, what do we do with loss like this? How do we find any peace at all? How do we help this family we love?" You may have the same questions as you're battling your own loss or walking with someone who is. I don't have all the answers to all the questions, but I have found a few things to be helpful during my own seasons of grief.
1. Embrace the Grief - Our minds and emotions deal with loss in a myriad of ways. One day we're angry, the next we're so sad it's difficult to get out of bed, and still the next we're shouldering guilt for not thinking about the one we lost for the last 10 minutes. All those emotions are okay for now. Expect them. Don't be afraid of them. Permission to feel is important in the process of grief recovery. There is no "should" in grief. There just "is". As long as we are moving toward healing and not harming ourselves or others, wherever you or your loved one is on the grief journey is okay. And try not to give grief a deadline. Everyone grieves on their own schedule and in their own way. Your grief may look different than the person next to you, but that doesn't mean one of you is not grieving or is grieving "wrong". Allow everyone space to grieve the way that makes sense to them.
2. Avoid Churchy Platitudes - Even if you are a Christian and the person hurting is a Christian, they very likely don't want to hear God has a purpose in all their pain or that God will use this for their good. They are in excruciating pain. Although those things are most definitely true, there is a time and place to share them. The immediate aftermath of their loss is not typically the place. We don't have all the answers anyway. A more helpful thing to do is just be present. Listen. The majority of those steeped in grief simply need someone to show up, shut up and love them. They don't want advice. They want to hear things like, "We're in this together." and "I'm so sorry and am here whenever you need me." or "Wanna go for a walk?" When they're ready to talk about God, they'll let you know, and you can be there to process and speak truth with them. But don't walk in their door with Bible guns a'blazin'. Just show up.
3. Keep showing up. Once life goes on for the rest of the world, the person experiencing the loss can feel very lonely not understanding how the world can just move on while they're still trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. Be the friend who keeps calling, texting, knocking on the door and listening months and years down the road. A simple text that reads, "Hey, girl. Just checking on you today." can be so meaningful. A card in the mail 6 months after the loss is impactful. Don't be afraid you will upset her by bringing up her loss; she's already thinking about it. It has become a defining and permanent moment in her life. Honor her loss by letting her know you remember and you care. It means the world to me when someone contacts me on my daughter Gabi's birthday now. To know people still remember her and care about my loss 15 years later is unspeakably sweet to me. Be that person for your friend.
As we move through grief ourselves or with someone else, remember prayer is, by far, our most effective tool. Prayer reminds us God shows up and listens too. That he cares. That he's powerful and intimately involved. We pray, we are simply present and we give room to grieve. Then in time we start to see the miracle: Light begins to dawn. Healing begins to rise. And this place, friends? This is the place life after loss is birthed.