Death. Loss. Serious illness. Tragedy.
When it happens to someone we know, we often don’t know what to say. We need to say something – it has to be acknowledged or it feels really wrong – the elephant in the room.
We should think about what we’re going to say ahead of time.
I know. Many people have said weird or not-helpful things while trying to be nice to me since my son, David Glasser, who was a Phoenix Police Officer, was killed in the line of duty on May 18, 2016.
When tragedy blew my life apart, many of the people I spoke to afterwards would say ‘So sorry for your loss.” I used to think that this sounded unoriginal and trite but, after experiencing some of the other things people say, I realize it’s a good option. When you say this, you are recognizing my loss and sharing an emotion. I say it myself now. Actually, I often just say “I’m so sorry” to someone who has just had a loss or tragedy. They know what I’m referring to – it’s all they can think about.
There are other things people say which can actually hurt – poking at my bruises. Some days whatever people say doesn’t bother me and other days……….. saying things like these can make a dark day worse:
“There’s always a reason.” Really? Am I supposed to be glad he’s gone because there’s a reason? I should stop crying because it’s all working out great now?
“Time heals all wounds.” Really? All of this pain and grief is going to go away? It’s going to turn into a scar that doesn’t hurt anymore? I personally think ‘heal’ is the wrong word to use with loss and grief.
“He’s in a better place.” My head knows that. My heart has been shattered into a million pieces and it aches a little bit more when you remind me that he’s not here with us, with me.
What should we say?
The best advice I have read is in the Bible – Romans 12:15b –
“Weep with those who weep”.
Weep with us.
Weep with me.
Let your heart break for those who are heart-broken.
Hold tightly onto anyone is who is lost in pain and grief.
Give us grace when we are not gracious.
Forgive us when the anger boils over.
Be patient with us when our frustration shows.
Understand that it’s hard to focus sometimes when the emptiness is overwhelming.
Don’t ask us to let you know if there’s anything you can do – if there’s something you want to do, just do it.
Don’t tell us about a different tragedy – your’s or someone else’s. We are struggling to deal with our own.
Don’t give us advice unless we ask for it.
You really don’t have to say much.
Just love us unconditionally, no matter how we respond.
And weep with us.