My sweet friend Stephanie recently sent me this email and it said…
"The Lord has put on my heart to collect some “Etiquette” pointers. I have witnessed friends go through loss and difficult situations and not known how to respond to their needs. When my dad was sick last January, I realized that people don’t know how to respond and help when their friend is going through a difficult situation. They either require too much of you or they run from you. What it boils down to is they don’t know how to respond (and neither do I)!
I would like to know how you would have liked to have been treated and were treated during the year your dad died. We need to know how to REALLY “Love Thy Neighbor”, you know?"
NOTE: OK, I SOOOO feel like the beginning of a Veggie Tales video right now "Stephanie writes…". I’m such a freakin ANSWER QUEEN, eh? Ha!
Back on track. Its interesting. My close friends know me so well and know I have RULES that God has truly laid on me after the life I’ve had and the loss I’ve lived thru. I think He truly gave me a heart for the broken-hearted, bc I’ve been broken-hearted many times. In a crazy weird way, I’m so thankful for that "burden". Anyway, my sweet friend asked me this and I thought it would make a great blog. I hope you agree…and PLEASE help add to my list or give me your opinion. We do need to love each other – regardless of the circumstances.
To make it easy, I just numbered out a few things that I thought of.
1) NEVER EVER SKIP A FUNERAL. OK, I know you sometimes dont feel like you know the person well enough or that they might want a private/intimate setting. Nonsense, I say. TRUST ME ON THIS, if you ever wonder whether you should go, the answer is YES. Be there. Just BE THERE. You dont have to say a word, just be a presence. I can still name the kids from my school who were at my dad’s funeral…James, BethAnn, Scott, Greg, Holley, Janelle, and on and on. I will NEVER forget. Some of them were not even close friends. There were just THERE. Never skip. Never.
2) If its someone who is kinda close to you, go to the "viewing" also. I know, its uncomfortable and no fun and under NO circumstances do you WANT to be there. I promise, that grieving person feels the same way. Its horrible. I remember feeling like I was forced to go when Dad died. I was. But I needed to see him. And, nothing felt better than when one of MY friends (not my parents’ friends) walked in and just stood by me. You dont have to even go "show respect" to the deceased, just show respect to the living…you’re there FOR THEM, not for the one who is gone. Remember that.
3) "What do I say??" I dont know what to tell you. When someone goes thru losing a loved one they feel alienated, weird, lost. Don’t avoid them. Don’t ignore it. Don’t pretend like it didnt happen. Be willing to go out on a limb and make a fool of yourself to say the wrong thing. I promise, people said the wrong thing to me 100 times, but it was never more appreciated bc at least they didnt pretend not to see me and run. Want a couple lines to avoid? "How’re you doing?" "Our prayers are with you." "Its all a part of God’s purpose." Want a few to consider – "I love you", "I havent forgotten", "Ya know, I knew that person and I remember XXX about him.", "That person taught me XXX and I’ll never forget it". Recently a precious new friend shared a memory she had of my dad with me. He’s been gone 21 years. She took the time to tell me about the time she met him. I cried more than I have in 10 years. She will never truly understand what she gave me…a gift that even 21 years later is the MOST precious gift anyone can give me – she gave me a NEW memory to keep in my heart. Dont underestimate that.
4) Help them laugh. When you’re grieving, it feels like there’s a big ol’ branch sticking in your gut…it never leaves and it catches on every part of life. You can never forget its there. When you forget for a minute, it starts aching to remind you that it is still there. Give them a minute to forget about that huge branch…make them laugh.
5) Don’t say "Call me if you need something". THey’ll never call. Instead, be intuitive – think…if they have kids, ask if they can come play one day. Or, call an hour ahead and say "I’m bringing dinner!" – dont ask, just DO. Drop a bunch of new paper towels, paper plates, toilet paper, napkins, etc. on their porch and call and say its there. Dont ask, just DO. Send a housekeeper. Think practical…those are the things that are hard to do.
6) Check in 2 months later. If there is anything besides #1 that I want people to know, its that WE DONT MOVE ON LIKE YOU DO. Ya know, you leave a funeral, feel sad and then move on. The grieving dont move on. Its one of the hardest things…that next few months. I always tell friends, "the funeral is the easiest part". Every friend/family is there…support, love, memories. But then, everyone moves on. Dont move on. Call. Send a letter. Drop by. Dont forget.
7) Check in at holidays. Nothing is harder for me than Fathers Day and the anniversary of his death. Nothing. 21 years later, still, nothing. It makes me feel loved when friends remember…
8) Write letters to them. Not sympathy cards (although those are nice, too) – but pour out your heart. Send memories on paper that they can read over and over. Remind them of God’s love – not by telling them "its all a part of His plan", but by LOVING THEM.
9) Dont have expectations. Dont expect overwhelming gratitude bc you are so thoughtful. Dont expect returned calls. Dont expect smiles. Dont expect tears. Dont expect them to bear their souls. Dont expect anything. Its unpredictable, this grief thing.
10) Dont judge. So often I hear people saying things like "Should she be going out so SOON after he died?" "Shouldnt she be sadder?" Well meaning people who are WATCHING…and talking. Don’t be one of them. YOU DONT KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON IN THAT PERSON. Be different.
11) You dont have to rehearse. Just pray. Dont know what to say? Dont have a PLAN? Just pray. He’ll give you the words…or no words. Just step out there. Its so hard, I know. Trust me, I’ve said STUPID things to people grieving, too. Just remember, less is more. Just BE THERE.
OK, so thats all I have right now. Cookies are beeping and cutie in teh bath needs me to wash her hair. I’m so glad Steph asked me…I truly believe it is a THING that He has put on me…compassion for the broken-hearted. Remember, someday YOU will be that person…
What do you think?