Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Treat a Friend Who Has Suffered a Loss -- Part 3

I have had some requests for an updated post on this subject. And being three months down the road of grief, the road is different here. My needs are different here. I have been hesitant to put down in writing how to treat someone a little further out because I am not sure what the right answers are. I am not sure there even are "right" answers. I am not always sure how I want people to treat me. You can see how confusing this subject can be.

But, once again, I will try to stick to things I think are generally universally appreciated and then let you know about the things that are more specific to me.

We are now at the point where the mail is full of bills and junk once again. Our loss is not the subject of every conversation we have. The weight of the grief is not as constant as it was in the beginning. We are stronger in our bearing of it than we were.

Still there are waves of grief that come over us with great intensity. They are far less frequent but they still come in unexpected moments. These waves can seem even more intense than those waves did in the early days. And when they do come, we suffer them more privately than we did before.

No one can anticipate these waves. Only the Lord knows when they will hit. So for the woman who wanted to know what to do for a person she visit teaches or a close friend, live worthy of and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Pray for this friend and when you pray for her ask if there is anything you can do that she needs that day. This is probably the only universally right answer for what to do for someone who has suffered a loss. 

At this point in the road, I don't want to talk about my loss in every conversation. I also don't want to feel I can't talk about Camille. I love talking about Camille. I am less interested in talking about the loss of her. So it really takes listening to the Spirit to determine if today is that day your friend needs something done for her.

So let's say you feel it is a day she needs something. Now what to do? Again this probably varies greatly depending on the person. I do think there are some pretty safe things you can do that will be fairly universally appreciated.

First, show or express love. If you are going to see her that day, reach out and give her a hug. I have one friend who has given me a tight quick hug every time I have seen her since the accident. It always makes me feel better. If you don't have plans to see her, drop her an email or text, or flowers, or a card that just says, "I was thinking about you today and wanted to let you know that I love you and I still pray for you." You don't need to bring up the loss. Just express love and support. These little love notes can be so helpful on those days we feel swept away by a wave of grief.

Second, I have found it very difficult to deal with all this extra time I have. I have little motivation to get out and fill it with classes or jobs or whatever. I still have Lauren to tend all day. But tending a 3 year old is much less work than tending a 1 year old. I don't want to feel committed to being somewhere everyday to fill the extra time. Somedays, I still need a little time to myself. But I wish I had more spontaneous beneficial time fillers.

So, call your friend up and ask her to go out to lunch, go on a walk, or to a movie. Even better, ask her to serve. Serving brings blessings and it makes us feel good. We need to be sensitive to the type of service we ask our friend to do. You don't want to ask a person who lost a baby to come babysit your kids unless you know her REALLY well and she has told you she wants to do that. For many grieving mothers, it is hard to be around kids the age of the kids they lost.

Still asking the grieving mother to make a meal for someone or to visit the elderly or to make humanitarian kits is a great way to give her opportunities for service. And if she doesn't want to do it, give her a way to say "Thanks, but no. I am not up for that today."

That is about it for my tips on what you can do for someone at this point on the road. I haven't hit any big anniversaries yet like a birthday or holiday. I am sure those will take some extra love and support to get through. I hope this helps for now.