Why You Never Leave Your Grieving Friend Alone

“You’ve got so much going on. I didn’t want to burden you with my hard stuff.”

“I didn’t want to make you more sad. I try and only share stuff that will cheer you up.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should say anything. I hate to bother you.”

I’ve heard dozens of versions of those well intentioned phrases. I’ve thought them myself.

And I’ve been deeply hurt by them.

When you lose someone you love – especially a spouse – the grief is isolating. The person you always had around to talk through things with or cry with or just sit in the quiet with is gone. There are constant reminders that a relationship is missing, that life will never be the same.

And when your friends try to love and protect you by not sharing their good, bad, and ugly, it feels like they are leaving, too.

Grief is already lonely enough.

I get it, though. We hate seeing our friends hurting. We hate to be the one who might cause them more pain. So we avoid the hard stuff, hoping it will help them heal faster.

What we don’t realize, until we are the one that is grieving, is that being shielded from the pain of our friends is another loss. When we are lost and broken hearted, we are desperate for intimacy, normalcy, and distraction.

I live with my grief. I can’t avoid the fact that I’m a widow. It’s my reality. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also my real, regular life. And I’m happy to be distracted from it for a bit. Especially when it’s an opportunity to love on someone I care about.

Before the loss, life was “normal.” But loss and grief cause a shift that is often really hard to adjust to. And we forget that life isn’t going to return to the old normal and it takes work to establish the new normal. One way to help that strange transition feel less weird is for friendships to be consistent. If you shared hard stuff with me before, keep sharing because you might be one of the only parts of my “old” life that I can rely on.

After Keith died, I was surprised by how hard it was to make decisions. When you’ve spent the last 10 years of your life talking things through with someone, learning how to make decisions, and work as a team, it feels impossible to start doing those things on your own. I never realized how so much of my thinking had become team thinking. I wasn’t ever just thinking about me. When I lost my teammate, I lost my trusted confidant and sounding board. When we protect our grieving friends from hard conversations, we aren’t protecting them. We are robbing them of the opportunity to explore their thought, feelings, and opinions in a safe, loving dialogue. Even if a friend hasn’t loss a spouse, they are missing someone and in desperate need of secure conversation with someone they love.

Your grieving friend needs your whole, real self. They may have lost a loved one, but they don’t need to lose a friend, too.

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