Grief as defined by the dictionary is a deep sorrow. Other versions of the word say that grief is love. You loved someone so much that to grieve them is to love them. Makes sense. I’ve had my first real glimpse into the world of sorrow since losing both of my parents ten months ago to suicide. So from an insiders view, I wanted to share with you a few things I’ve learned that you can do to help someone who is grieving a loved one.
Don’t say nothing
I’ve heard it a million times by now that you don’t know what to say so you think saying nothing or ignoring me is respectful or somehow doing me a favor. I’m here to tell you that’s so far from the truth. It’s not what you say or having the right thing to say that matters, it’s saying something; because saying nothing feels like you don’t care, I can promise you that. I have yet to understand why it’s easier for complete strangers to talk to me more about what I’m going through than my friends and family. I can count on my fingers the amount of people who have actually asked me straight up how I’m doing.
Don’t tell me I’m strong
It might sound ridiculous and petty, but please don’t tell me I’m so much stronger than you or that you admire my strength because if it were you, you’d be in bed with the covers over your head all day. Each person goes through grief in their own way and at their own pace. Just because I may not be handling it the way you think you would does not make me strong. It makes me different. It makes me, me. Saying I’m strong feels like a cop out to not have to deal with my feelings or actually talk to me about what I’m going through. I can also tell you that I don’t feel strong. I choose to get up each day and do the things I know need to get done because life goes on even if I want it to stop for me sometimes and wallow with me. I have a busy toddler who needs me so I choose to be there for him because it’s not his fault that I’m in pain.
I want you to talk about them
I want to hear their names every once in a while. I get that they weren’t your parents and that you don’t feel the same as I do, but please don’t feel you’re doing me a service by pretending they didn’t exist. Talking about them actually helps me to heal and honor who they were to me. I miss them terribly and ignoring that they were alive or purposely not mentioning their names because you’re afraid of upsetting me actually hurts more. So feel free to share a funny memory with me or a picture every once in a while.
Don’t treat me like I’m broken
I can’t stress this one enough. Yes I’ve been through hell recently, but please stop treating me like a glass doll when you talk to me. I will never be the same person I was, but I’m still a person. I like to go shopping, have coffee with friends, and chat just like anyone else. And understand that if you do talk to me, you don’t have to mention what I’ve been through every time. I’m convinced that this is why I’ve lost or become distant with so many friends over the past 10 months. It’s because you’re worried that if you ask how I’m doing that I’ll start crying or something and you’ll get stuck not knowing what to say or do. I can assure you that I can still have a normal conversation with you and that you don’t have to hide from me. I will only talk to you about my situation if you ask me specifically. I have literally seen some of you look at me and walk in the opposite direction in the grocery store because you’re too afraid to talk to me. Just think about what that message sends.
Don’t give me space when I need you most
I’ve had a front row seat to watching family members and friends spiral from depression and watching everyone close to them disappear. Even if you don’t know how to handle the situation, try to be there in the best way you know how. I can tell you that helps so much more than saying or doing the “wrong thing.” I think we all get caught up in our busy lives and choose to leave the hurting alone because we aren’t hurting at that moment or we think we’ll mess them up more. A kind gesture or word can literally lift a depressed mood from a person and give them a reason to keep going. It’s when you stop reaching out that the depression can become too much. It’s amazing what the power of a word or hug can do. I’ve had people tell me that they gave me space for 6-8 months because they thought that was what I needed. Please let me be the judge of that for myself. But this goes for anyone in your life. I write this today because I want you to be aware that depression is real and it can most definitely end a person’s life. I share this because I want to create awareness for something that affected me and my family directly. Suicide is a real problem and it’s not one that’s talked about enough. Please don’t get the wrong idea that I’m feeling what I just described above. I’m simply advocating for someone who might not be able to ask you for help. I can tell you that anyone who is contemplating ending their life doesn’t want to die. They just want to stop hurting. Suicide is 100% preventable and it’s our job to be there to help as much as humanly possible.