On Thursday I received a phone call from a woman who wanted advice on how best to support her friend whose husband died two months ago. She was at her wits end with her friend who called her crying hysterically because she'd just left a drive through restaurant that she and her husband used to frequent together. This friend said to me, "I just don't know what to do with her."
To which I responded…hear her. Don't try to fix her. Let her cry. Allow her to be with you without feeling like she has to hide her feelings. Just be IN this with her.
I closed the conversation by telling her that I know what I am asking her to do may sound too simple, but also that what I am asking her to do is very, very difficult. Witnessing the kind of pain experienced by widowed people can be excruciating. When you love someone and they are in a kind of pain that shakes their whole soul, and you can't fix it...that hurts in ways that are difficult to describe.
I write this today for two reasons:
1.) To remind our friends and families of the valuable gift you give to any widowed person when you are able to witness their pain without trying to fix the problem. No one can solve the problem; the person who is dead is dead. That can't be changed. But, you can stand as witness to love, to grief, to confusion and despair. You can offer unconditional love. And when your friend looks back on those early days of their grief, the memory of you will be there loving them, holding space for them, believing in a better future for them SILENTLY in your heart, because words are unnecessary.
2.) To remind my widowed friends how much love and concern is behind the seemingly callous and even cruel things that our loved ones sometimes say to us. Most of the time these words come out because the person speaking to you cares so much and can't stand to see you in pain, so they try to fix you. But they can't. And that helpless feeling sometimes drives them to speak, when silence and love would be more soothing.
I hope that this message spreads a little kindness today, and sheds some light for concerned friends...maybe even saves a widowed person from words that may have wounded them from a friend who wants nothing more than to comfort them.
Perspective changes everything.