In my book Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple I wrote about ‘The Art of Presence’: “Be there, not merely in the moment of crisis. Walk alongside me in the months and years to come. Allow me my process of healing. Sit with me in the moments of painful emotions and the darkness of depression.”
Recently I have become more and more aware of the powerful healing that can occur if we just practice the Art of Presence.
So here is what I have found to be the important four things you can do for a friend who has experienced the loss of someone they love – and you might like to share this article with them, if you agree:
- Be there
Sounds simple. Is it simple? It needs practice, practise to stay with someone in pain, practice to just be. Accept that you might be feeling uncomfortable in the other person’s pain, it’s ok, you may still remain there with them. You don’t need to do or say anything, just your presence will be appreciated.
It is an illusion that in times of crisis people need space. Respect someone’s wish, if they tell you so. Otherwise, be present.
- Witness the pain
Bereaved people might openly show their sadness and grief. Others might show strong emotions like anger and rage at the injustice of death having taken their loved one too soon.
Allow your friend’s pain. Welcome their tears. Welcome their strong emotions. A person expressing strong emotions is relieving tension, it is a normal and healthy reaction unless they are likely to harm themselves or others.
- Remember the loved one
After the loss, people often want to talk about their lost loved ones. Grieving Parents want to talk about their baby, their child. Remember their loved one with them. Mention their name. Talk about your memories. People are often afraid of the potential of increasing the bereaved person’s pain. Let me tell you, your mentioning the loved one’s name cannot increase the pain that they have already experienced through the loss. Even though the mentioning of my daughter’s name brought sadness, it also brought joy to my heart that people remembered and spoke about her.
- Saying less is more
Do not try to fix their pain by saying something to cheer them up or attempting to remind them to be grateful of what the still have. There are so many statements made in a helpless attempt to relieve the person’s pain. Those sentences might be intellectually true but they are emotionally barren. This is why they hurt. Intellectual truth does not mend a broken heart.
I recently heard this beautiful statement, said to a friend of mine by the priest who buried their son:
Grief is homeless love.
Let the grieving people tend to the homeless love in their broken heart.
This article was first published March 2, 2016 in Still Standing Magazine.