I received an email today from a lady who knows a family from her church currently in a situation similar to ours. She noted that it’s difficult for her to speak to the family without crying herself but doesn’t want to avoid them.
Because it’s so very difficult to know what to say, it’s easier to turn away. I can’t tell you how awful that feels when you’ve already lost so much, (like being re-victimized), but it’s easy to understand. I don’t know what to say either and that’s because NOTHING is going to make it better.
It’s like a physical barrier that one has to actually push through to force oneself to do uncomfortable things, and talking to someone who is grieving (especially their child) is very difficult. It takes courage and strength of character to make the first move. The fear is that we’ll do or say something inconsiderate or unintentional and make things worse. Well, I’m here to tell you not to worry about that.
Need a conversation starter? Take them a meal, or a gift card to a local restaurant, or offer to make one later in case their fridge is full (and follow through because they won’t ask) and then simply tell them you’re there to listen. If they have other children, offer to take them to the park or your house to give the person some time to let their guard down without worrying about upsetting the kids more.
It took all my strength to continue being a parent to the other kids while watching them struggle with their grief, fears and questions. I needed them with me, was terrified to have them away from me, but knew that they needed to feel normal. Having their friend’s parents invite them for play dates was so very important.
It’s okay to be afraid of making a mistake, saying the wrong thing, or putting the proverbial foot in your mouth, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out. Crying is okay! I spent a lot of time consoling others who were there to help me, but it certainly didn’t upset me anymore than I already was. I recognized the effort they made even just speaking to me and I still hold those people in the highest esteem.