The week after I finished Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, her husband died. This book held personal details of her loving marriage to her husband, Dave Goldberg and I was devastated for her.
Recently, I received my TIME magazine with Sheryl on the cover. She is promoting her new book on grief and how to behave when someone you know is grieving. I almost put handle instead of behave, but we do not need to be handled. I have been in a state of grieving for about three years. I grieve about my husband’s illness. I grieve about the inability to have children naturally, or if I’ll ever have children. Talking to a friend about the loss of her sister to suicide, she said it hurt that people avoided the topic and her. Our response to grief and other’s pain seems universal. We avoid it and them. We don’t know what to say so we say nothing. Or if we say anything, it is a quick line we have heard from movie and TV, “I’m sorry for you loss”, “It is going to be okay.” etc.
When you are grieving, you see it so clearly how humans simply do not know what to do with someone that is grieving. Those that have been through it seem to handle it the best. They know what comforted them and what deepened their sadness. They know that a question inquiring at their well-being with the honest intent to listen to the response no matter how uncomfortable it makes them is the best medicine. Then after listening to not give uneducated advice or more of those cliché sayings “Time heals all wounds.” One of the worst thing someone has ever said to a friend, “It was just a dog.” Do not put a value or judge someone’s pain. Do not put a time limit on someone’s grief. Sometimes stupid stuff comes out of our mouths, it happens, apologize instead of thinking it didn’t bother them or hear it.
I will not proclaim myself an expert, and I know I’ve said some stuff that I later regretted. It is something I’m working on, and I’m striving to do it better because I hate seeing those I love in pain. I know nothing I can say will make that pain go away, but I hope my presence will lessen the emotional burden and suffering.
I will read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Option B.
I recommend reading her interview in TIME. Sheryl Sandberg’s interview: http://time.com/sheryl-sandberg-option-b/
I read this post at the start of April. It sums up why we need to stop saying “I’m sorry for your loss” and alternatives.
Here is probably the best action list I have ever read on being a good friend to someone that is grieving.
Becoming better support for those in a state of grief is something we could all use a bit of practice on. As we get older and wiser, we will inevitability be on both sides of it.