• Robyn Alsip Arce

Part 2 - Mourn With Those Who Mourn

It is so important to remember that the pain of our grief is very isolating and the enemy wants us to stay in that isolation. However, the bereaved must fight that urge and the supporter must help and be persistent.


The most important thing you can do as a supporter: Be the friend you've always been... but make yourself more available than you ever have!




Although the pain of our grief isolates us, it also mercilessly pursues us; rarely giving us rest from memories, questions, and chaotic emotions.









In Part 1 we talked about how grief needs to be witnessed, acknowledged, and validated. We discussed that the supporter must commit to sticking around for the long haul.

We asked some questions:

What is it about grief that makes it so hard to be supportive?

Why is it so difficult to walk alongside someone in profound grief?

How do we help?

What can we say?

What can we do?

Why do those who say they’ll be there for the bereaved leave the journey?

Why do they tire of staying the course?

In Part 2, we will dive into these questions and give tangible actions that the supporter can take to help the grieving.

 

Why do those who say they’ll be there for the bereaved leave the journey?


Why do they tire of staying the course?


Do we tire of hearing about someone’s kids, or the good things in their life? No... so why do we tire of hearing about someone’s grief and pain? Is it because it’s uncomfortable? If it’s uncomfortable to observe and hear about, imagine how hard it is to live! It is not the bereaved’s responsibility to make everyone else feel comfortable; although that is usually what they try to do. As a supporter, it is so very important to show your love. Don’t avoid the topic or try to protect them from it... quite the contrary, ask them how they are... and follow their lead. Show them the loss is real to you as well and you will not weary of walking the journey with them. Show up, show up, show up... and when you start to think they are better, show up some more. Ask them how they’re doing and then let them talk about their pain, talk about their loved one. Let them talk. Let them share. Let them show you what is in their heart! Don't rush it... just listen and be present. Part of their healing is talking through the pain... let them process.


I remember a dear friend asking me how I was doing soon after my husband's death... before I could get a word out, she stopped me and said, "don't sugar coat it." That told me she really wanted to hear and know the truth and she wasn't just asking out of obligation. That was refreshing!


Be there to help them take breaks from the grief as well. How? Take them on a walk, to lunch, to a movie. What did you do with them before the death? Do that! Treat your loved one to some self-care; a massage, a facial, a spa day together. It is highly unlikely that they are doing things for themselves to take special care; but you can help them do that, remind them to do that.


Speak the truth of God's word over them. However, follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they just need you to listen and sometimes they need to hear the truth of God's word. I think for many newly bereaved, they cannot read the word for themselves - remember that everything is overwhelming for them. In my case, I had read the word to my husband so much in the hospital that opening my Bible brought back so many of those memories and so much emotion, I could barely bring myself to do it; although I knew that I needed it. A dear friend of mine was staying with me after my husband died and she knew how hard it was for me to open my Bible, so she just sat with me and read it to me. What a profound blessing that was as she met my need. The word fed my spirit and my heart.


Bear witness to their pain, validate it, experience it with them.

Don’t try to fix it... no platitudes, please! Just listen and acknowledge... acknowledge you hear them, acknowledge the severity of it all, acknowledge that you can’t possibly imagine - if you can’t, acknowledge their broken heart... validate the gravity of it Giving them time to talk and process is such a gift. I don’t mean to be harsh, but they really don't want or need to hear about the time something similar happened to Uncle Joe or how Aunt Alice hurt herself and had a similar hospital experience as their dead spouse... they need you to focus on them and just listen and acknowledge.


Keep track of the anniversaries and reach out without being prompted... reach out prior to the day and ask how they’re doing, tell them you know it’s going to be hard for them and empathize. Definitely express your love and encouragement on the day as well... ask them if they want company. Those anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays, are crazy hard... and I promise they are even harder when no one else remembers or acknowledges. Wow, what a blessing to know someone remembers with you. Don’t worry about ‘reminding them’ and causing pain.... believe me, they already know!!!


I believe one of the kindest things you can do for them is talk about their loved one, ask about their loved one... show them you haven’t forgotten their loved one. If they cry, THAT IS OK! You are not ‘making them sad.’ In fact, they might just be crying because they are so happy to know you’ve not forgotten their loved one or their pain. When no one remembers with them, when others leave the journey, the pain of their grief is intensified... they suffer the pain of the death and the deep, deep pain of being alone in it.


By remembering our loved ones and ‘bringing them with us,’ we find healing and we can find our way to living without them. The sweetest thing for me is when someone else remembers my husband and openly talks about him... as naturally as if he were still here. Oh, the healing properties of that simple act. I remember one day sitting in my living room with some of my family. Out of nowhere my niece said, "Julian would think that is so funny!" We all were in such agreement and laughed out loud together. Wow, that made my heart smile... she had a thought about my husband and she didn't censor herself... she just spoke of him, she just remembered him. There was never a sweeter gift of love.


Rather than saying, “let me know if I can do anything,” JUST DO IT... something, anything. The bereaved may not even know what they need you to do. Call and check in, don’t wait for an invitation. Bring over dinner or a few groceries. Look around at what needs doing... laundry, dishes, vacuuming. I promise you, some days the bereaved can barely get out of bed let alone do household chores... any help would be invaluable. Simply visit, call, listen, love, pray with them, remember with them... again, for the long haul. Let them know you’re thinking about them. Please don’t leave it to the grieving to reach out.... sometimes they just can’t, most of the time they just can’t! And... if they do reach out, ANSWER the call for help... answer the call for acknowledgement... don’t leave them hanging. If you don’t answer the need, it’s not likely they will ask again!


To recap the Do's and Do Not's...


The Do's:

1. Do... Show up, show up, show up; be in it for the long haul!!

2. Do... Initiate communication and reach out

3. Do... Love

4. Do... Ask them how they are really doing and follow their lead

5. Do... Let them tell you, let them express their pain. Acknowledge their pain.

6. Do... Talk about their deceased love one

7. Do... Help them take breaks from the pain

8. Do... Speak God's truth over them

9. Do... Keep track of big days, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and assume they need to hear from you in advance about it and on the day


The Do Not's:

1. Do Not... Say, ‘call me if you need anything’ (instead, initiate for them)

2. Do Not... Try to fix it or rush the process

3. Do Not... Try to protect them from feelings

4. Do Not... Leave the journey early


The journey of grief can be isolating and COVID has only intensified the isolation. Be there for those you love... if only by phone. Let them hear your voice, let them feel your love. By the way, busyness is only an excuse... we find time for what we deem important. Don’t let them walk this journey alone. I promise you they will be forever grateful and you will be blessed in the process.


Please know that my goal here is not to shame anyone or make anyone feel bad... but rather to share what I’ve learned on this journey that might help someone else forced to walk the same one. If I can do that, I’ve done what God intends us all to do. If you’ve messed up, don’t live in guilt, ask forgiveness and do it better next time!


May you be blessed while being a blessing to others.


— Robyn Alsip Arce, © 2021



 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™