It has been eleven months since I said goodbye to my best friend and the love of my life. At some times it seems like forever. At other times it seems like only yesterday. At all times the gaping hole remains in my heart. Son Justin and I were at the cemetery during Memorial Day weekend to honor Jim and the life he lived for his country, his friends, and our family. With the Memorial Day weekend behind us, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about a book written by a dear friend--a book to help grieving friends.
With the loss of my parents, a daughter, and my husband, I’ve learned that death makes the people around us uncomfortable. I would even guess there are some blog readers who won't want to read this post. Why? Because our society doesn't want to read or talk or speak of death—it creates discomfort. But PLEASE don’t quit reading. Even though we want to help grieving spouses, children, parents, and friends, the topic of what to do and the best way to help aren’t topics we discuss until someone close to us passes away and we’re struck by the notion that we don’t know what to do—what will help that grieving friend in need.
Fellow author and friend, Stephanie Whitson has written a wonderful book titled How to Help a Grieving Friend. Stephanie lost her best friend to cancer three days after her own husband was diagnosed with an incurable form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (he subsequently died in 2001). Later that same year, her mother and father died within six weeks of each other. This book is a result of her own grief journey—the experiences of losing those she loved. It isn’t a book of ‘how-to’s’ for those who are grieving. Rather, it is a book of ‘how-to’s’ for those who truly want to be there for the friend who has suffered a loss.
While no one sets out to heap additional pain upon those who are grieving, many are insensitive to the fact that their behavior can create deeper wounds. You may see yourself between the pages of this book. If so, know that we can learn to do better in the future by using the solutions provided in this book. Each of the short twenty-five chapters is divided into two sections: “How it Feels” and “How to Help.” I’m going to quote a few of the “How to Help” notes from Stephanie’s book:
“Offer to do Things: I’m drowning in to-do lists I don’t have the energy for. Help me figure out my taxes. Take my daughter to shop for school clothes. Prune the roses. Mow the lawn. Clean the refrigerator. Repair the broken window.
Be Specific: “Call me anytime” has no meaning. “I can run errands for you from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, means you mean it.”
Accept No for an Answer: It’s exhausting pretending to be happy in a group so I don’t depress everyone around me. If I say no, it doesn’t mean I don’t want your friendship. It just means I’m too tired to hang out right now.”
Accept My New Quirks: If I’m reluctant, don’t push it. Grief changes people—permanently. I may never be ‘my old self’ again. But I just might be a better self if you’ll give me some time.
Don’t Apologize for Not Knowing What to Say: Chances are, there isn’t anything you can say that will really help. Your hand on my shoulder, your hug, and your presence mean a lot.”
If you’ve ever struggled with how to help a grieving friend, I suggest you purchase a copy of Stephanie’s book—and perhaps an extra copy to give to your minister, a hospital chaplain or the local hospice center in your community. The book is available from your favorite local or online bookseller or you can contact Stephanie at http://www.stephaniewhitson.com/.
May you find joy as you touch the heart of a friend. ~ Judy
P.S. This is my final blog for several weeks. Carol Cox is going to fill in for me over the next several weeks. I know you’ll enjoy her posts and I hope you’ll make her feel welcome with your comments.