Knowledge comes from experiences—something we hear through someone, a book we’ve read—it’s second hand living, recycled through the life chain.
Wisdom comes from experience. When we have walked through something, touched it, tasted it and lived it—we encompass wisdom.
I have never had anyone close to me die.
I do know that grief is a soul-specific emotion. That means that we all deal with it differently. There is no rule book, no right way to go about grief.
This means that if, theoretically speaking, my brother passed away and your brother passed away, our grief is completely different—it is entirely our own.
Therefore, “I understand” isn’t something I will ever say.
How the f*ck can I understand another’s process of loss? I can’t, I can only know my own.
Then there’s, “I’m sorry”.
We say “I’m sorry” when we bump into someone, when we interrupt them at dinner, when we cut in line by accident at the grocery store. I’m sorry doesn’t cut it in this case.
So, what does work?
Greif is uncomfortable. It’s heavy. Lots of people squirm and want to poke grief, especially other people’s grief, with a ten foot pole so it doesn’t leak into their day.
What does work is showing up, even though it’s uncomfortable. Even though the person you know and love is in the shittiest pits of heavy, stand there beside them.
The way other people process our experiences can sometimes be exhausting. If you are supporting someone who is grieving, be careful not to personalize their grief, just hold a space for them. This isn’t about you—it’s about them.
Holding a space can mean all kinds of things.
Some people want to talk. Some people want to cry. Some people don’t want you to even think about hugging them. Some people want to be hugged and held and cradled. Some people want to drink a bottle of wine and escape for a little while.
The best thing you can possibly do is show up for the person who is grieving, exactly how they need it—moment to moment.
This involves being present and aware of their energy and body language but also using one of our greatest gifts—our voice. Ask them what they need.
Go for a walk, talk, don’t talk, have tea, swim in the ocean, breathe in the air, let them cry, let them have space, let them have space with you.
Just show up and say, “I’ve got you.”
You don’t have to say it out loud, you can say it in your presence.
Let them set boundaries, and ask for what they need. Don’t have your feelings hurt if they don’t want your support., their grief isn’t about you.
Their grief is their own, and while it unravels, and while they feel and feel and feel and break down and rise up—just let them.
Let them be angry, let them be sad, let them be completely inappropriate, let them be an asshole, let them celebrate that person in whatever way their soul calls for, let them wear their clothes and listen to music and lie in their bed and cry themselves to sleep. Just let them do it all and don’t try and label or fix, or shift any of it.
Your job isn’t to make it better, or have a solution.
Your job is to just show up.
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Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Daniel Zedda/Flickr