Wouldn’t it be nice if we could read the mind of someone who is grieving? We know that they are hurting from their loss, but they won’t accept our help or listen to our advice? They are asking themselves, “Why did this happen? Why can’t I cry? Why did God do this to me?” We really want to help, but just don’t know how.
I lost my mother, Jean, and my two daughters, Jenelle-age 19, and Amy-age 9 to a distracted semi-truck driver on July 22, 2003. Believe it or not, the driver was speeding and reading when he killed them. Friends and family constantly offered to help but we were afraid to share our deepest thoughts and pains with them. My stupid logic was—if I didn’t need their help before the calamity, why would I need it afterwards?
Below are several thoughts that I wish I would have shared with family and friends back then. They include:
- Please be patient with me and supportive of me. I am not the same person I was before my loss.
- Please let me grieve in my own way and in my own time. Don’t tell me how or when to grieve or when to stop grieving.
- Please understand that you cannot “fix my grief” or “take away” my pain. Instead, please simply listen to me and let me cry on your shoulder. If you feel like it, please cry with me.
- Please forgive me if I say something thoughtless or hurtful towards you. I am frequently depressed and lose my temper frequently. It is nothing against you. It is my grief needing to escape. I may not even thank you for your help or apologize for my words. However, your help is always appreciated—even if I don’t say so at the time.
- Please share stories and memories with me about my loved ones. I need to know that they will never be forgotten. Unfortunately, it takes words and actions to prove that to me. Please mention their names frequently. I need to hear them. I might cry or get sad. However, please remember that there are good tears and bad tears. Hearing a story usually brings about good tears and inspires me.
- Please never tell me what to do or when to quit grieving. I am so tired of hearing hurtful or insensitive cliché’s like “time heals all wounds” or “they are in a better place” or “it was meant to be”. I would much rather hear “I am so sorry for your loss” or “I am here for you and your family” or “I am here to listen to you whenever you need or want to talk.” If you only focus on one item, please let it be this one.
- Please be clear that nothing you can say to me will take away my pain. What I need are “hugs and friendship”. Please do not push me to do things that I am not yet ready to do or feel hurt if I appear withdrawn.
- Please never say “I know how you feel” because you don’t. Instead, show empathy.
- Please never stop calling me. You might think that you are respecting my privacy, but to me it feels like you are abandoning me.
- Please accept me for who I am today. I have been through a very traumatic experience, and I am a different person.
Randy Stocker is a survivor of the worst kind of loss—the death of a child—two children and his mother, in his case. Randy and his family live in Rochester, MN. He is writer as well as a professional speaker on the topics of grief and grieving. He is active in his community via civic organizations like Rotary, BNI (Business Networking International), the Chamber of Commerce, and his church. Randy is the author of the book, “Hugs Help”. His goal is to provide practical advice to both grievers and comforters.