Sometimes when people are in pain we let ourselves off the hook by telling ourselves, “I wouldn’t know what to say” or “they probably don’t want people around anyway.” The truth is that when a close friend is hurting, that is when she may need you the most. Emily Dickinson was well acquainted with grief, as she lost many friends to the Civil War. (read more about her biography here) She knew that you don’t have to say anything, you just have to be there.
A few months ago I ran a marathon with my twin sister (I shared this story at the Singles Conference a few weeks ago, so it may be a repeat for some of you). After about the 18th mile I hit a wall. By the 20th mile I was still running, but I’m sure you would have passed me if you were walking. I was in a lot of pain and felt like the last six miles would last an eternity. I could tell that Kati was getting tired of running so slow (she’s a much faster runner and could have finished an hour before we actually did), so I told her to go on without me, I’d be fine. But she looked at me and said “I can’t leave you now. Right now is when it’s the hardest. Now you’re in the most pain. Now is when you need me the most.” And she stayed by my side.
She was right. That was when I needed her the most. I didn’t need her to yell at me or talk to me, I just needed to know she was there beside me.
Are you this kind of friend to others? Are you willing to sit with a friend in grief, knowing that this means you’ll have to face the pain with her? (I wrote a post about being with someone in grief a few months back, you can read it here) Are you willing to suppress cliches, platitudes and quoting scripture in order to allow your friend to be where she is? Can you resist the urge to counsel her out of a healthy stage of mourning?
Too often we let our own discomfort rush someone out of her grief. If she lost the love of her life, why shouldn’t she cry? If her dream was just shattered to a million smithereens, why shouldn’t she feel sad? If she just had her fourth miscarriage, why shouldn’t she be angry?
It’s hard to sit with someone who is in pain. But that’s all you have to do- sit there with her. Let her know that it’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to grieve. Let her know that you will grieve with her, that you will share the burden of loss, and that you will hold hope for her when she cannot hold it for herself. Let her know that wherever she is and whatever she’s feeling is okay.
The Psalms are full of healthy mourning, grieving, crying, screaming, questioning, and lamenting. God can sit with us in those places. But can we sit with each other?
Tomorrow’s Women’s History Month Trivia. Who said, “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”