The weeks following the murder were filled with cards, visits, phone calls but as the weeks turned into months people just normally go back to their daily life while I am still hurting and in need of those same things - cards, visits and phone calls. The first few weeks I was in shock and although I was hurting I hadn't completely grasped the loss or the loneliness. As the brevity of the event sets in I needed those things more than ever and I am thankful for the friends who have continued to minister to me even to this day. I can only speak about the loss of a child but right after the loss as well as now, it makes me so happy to hear one of my friends talk about my daughter and especially to say her name. It is normal for you to feel like you will upset the hurting friend by not bringing up the loved one or trying to make them think about something else, but the truth is that it is actually comforting to hear someone speak about the loved one. Right after my loss and even more so today, it gives me such joy to hear someone talk about my daughter and especially to say her name. I'm not sure why hearing her name is so comforting but I have talked to several other parents who have also lost a child and they have reported the same thing. It may be that after losing a child, a parent has a fear of the child being forgotten. After losing my daughter there were some things that comforted me and others that actually hurt although they were well meaning. I do feel that after going through that experience I can better minister to others who are going through something similar.
Many people who genuinely want to help the bereaved believe they are helping by becoming "The Grief Police" . These are those people who give unsolicited advice about what to do and what not to do often comes at the bereaved from every which way, each of the advice givers seemingly convinced that they know how this is supposed to be done. “Stay busy, so you wonʼt have time to think about it.” “Go away for the Holidays.” “Donʼt go away for the Holidays.” “Go back to work as soon as you can.” “Donʼt go back to work too early.” “Get rid of everything in the house that reminds you of her.“ "Move out of the house.” "Think of things this way" “You wouldnʼt want her to be alive and still suffering, would you? Be happy sheʼs not suffering anymore.” “Itʼll be OK because God doesnʼt give you any more than you can handle.” “You have another grandbaby.” “That baby wouldnʼt have been normal anyway.” “She’s in a better place.”
What these comments - and many others like them have in common is an underlying message........ if you would just change the way youʼre thinking about this, you wouldnʼt feel so sad, and it wouldnʼt be so bad. The intention may be very well meaning caring that someone is sad and wanting to say something that will make the person feel better. But these kinds of comments rarely if ever make a grieving person feel better. They send the messages that you donʼt understand what theyʼre experiencing and you think theyʼre not thinking about this or doing this the right way. Grieving people typically ﬁnd these comments hurtful and/or annoying, even when they know the person means well.
A welcome alternative to being the Grief Police is offering some Grief Relief. The statement, “I'm sorry for your loss,” said sincerely, says it all. Saying little and listening a lot if or when they want to talk about it is helpful. Providing comfort is not going to come from something we say. Being comforting means walking with them with understanding and empathy as they stumble along their path of grief, not trying to rush them along, not telling them what we think they should think and should not think, not telling them what we think they should feel and not feel, not giving them unsolicited advice about what to do and what not to do. Not being The Grief Police. But, rather, being with them, listening to them when they want to talk about it, and trusting that they will find their way along the healing process.
You would be surprised how few people really know the art of being a comforting soul. I have a handful who I truly love. One of my favorite people is my Niece, Sarah. She is never afraid to talk about Ashleigh. She lets me express my feelings with never any judgment or awkward looks. I doesn't bother her if I say, "oh, Ashleigh loved that book!" it is a simple thing. If I had said that while she was alive no one would have thought twice about it....Ever! Now it makes people audibly gasp like they expect me to fall apart at any moment. The most wonderful thing Sarah has done for me is if the conversation does turn sad she doesn't end it abruptly or say, "lets change the subject." No she immediately calls to mind a funny or happy Ashleigh moment and makes me smile. If only others could learn from Sarah! Feeling understood and accepted is very comforting.One person who resists being the Grief Police to a grieving person and communicates understanding and empathy is worth their weight in gold.
So, instead of saying, “Well, at least, she’s not suffering anymore. That’s good,” you could say, “This is a hard time.” Instead of trying to talk me out of what I'm thinking and feeling, which does not work, anyway, you’re showing me that you care that this is a hard time for me. Not with sympathy, like you’re seeing me as pathetic and you’re feeling sorry for me, but with empathy, like you’re seeing me with respect as a fellow human being who is going through a hard time and you care that I'm in a hard place. You’re not trying to get me out of the hard place, which you can’t do anyway. You’re standing with me or walking with me where I am. As a caring companion, allowing me to be where I am at this moment. In my own way and in my own time frame.
In conclusion, the less you say when you’re with a grieving person, the better. Do not try to make them look on the bright side or replace the fear and sadness that is associated with a murdered loved one with sayings about celebrating life when they are in a bad place. Remember big ears, little mouth. This is not the time to talk about your own losses or your experience with people who were ill. This is a time to listen and be very attentive to what their experience is. You could think of yourself as an explorer in a foreign land doing your best to understand what life is like for them, how they see the world, and what they’re feeling and thinking. Not in order to judge them but in order to understand them and meet them where they are.