How to be with people in grief

This community is grieving. It is palpable, some say. We talk about a pall over the island. Every meeting now starts with, “how are you doing?”

How can we support one another in grief? This article offers some beautiful insight: Ask, Don't Tell: How to help someone in grief - Refuge In Grief Ask, Don’t tell: How to Help Someone in Grief:

"This is the recurring theme: Quick! She’s in pain! Let’s talk her out of it. Let’s tell her things will be better someday. Let’s remind her to be grateful for what she had.

Please. Please stop it. I know pain is hard to witness and hard to tolerate. Please stop telling me what you think I should hear. Please stop telling me about later, stop telling me about my glorious future, that Matt expects and wants me to have.

Please stop pointing out how life goes on. Stop. I am here. Now. Do not tell me about “later.” That completely ignores my “now.” What happens or does not happen “later” is irrelevant."

These words are so true. There is no experience that puts you in the present as much as suffering deep grief, I think. It just IS. There is no talking yourself out of it, no distraction that can put it away, no corner of your heart untouched by it. It is consuming.

My Dad died 5 months ago. In the process of my own, deep grief, I felt graciously held, my heart respected. Friends gently checked in with me, asking “how are you doing?” or “what is it like for you?” and gave me the freedom to respond or not, to go into my experience or to say “not now.” I rarely had intrusive or assumptive “tellers” - people who took the opportunity to use my experience with present-pain to explore some of their own experiences. The best times were when they just sat with me. I usually didn’t want to talk; nothing felt translatable to the world or people around me. But occasionally I did, and I remember feeling the release inside as I explored the edges of my broken heart.

“You are most helpful when you stand with me, without changing it, without fixing it, without making assumptions. It is okay to not have any answers.”

I hope you each can find comfort in whatever you can, today, and are able to be here and present for each person you encounter, and with yourself, and can wonder with them: What is it like, for you?