There’s a lot I could say about grief these days. Whether going through my own losses or walking with friends and loved ones through theirs, I’ve learned a lot about this uninvited guest that keeps showing up.
In many ways, it’s a lot like the ocean. You’re swimming and enjoying life…until an unexpected wave comes crashing down on you. Sometimes you see it coming…sometimes your back is to it. Either way, you’re never quite prepared for the beating it delivers.
And just when you get back on your feet, catch your breath and have the courage to venture back out, another one comes—bringing a fresh wave of grief all over again.
For those of us watching that friend or loved one going through this storm, there’s a lot that we could say or do. We could call out to them from the shore and tell them, “I’m over here if you need me, just holler, ok?” We could coordinate a helicopter to drop down some food and supplies to sustain them as they continue to tread water and fight through the pain. We could tell them, “It’s going to be ok…eventually you’ll get through this and someday you’ll enjoy the ocean again.” We could give them step-by-step instructions on how to navigate their grief and make it back to shore.
Any of these responses could be helpful. But many times, they are not.
There is one thing however that is always needed and always helpful—our presence.
Jesus demonstrated this in the wake of his friend Lazarus’s death. When he arrived to his tomb, he saw the mourners, he saw Lazarus’s sisters weeping, and his response was simply this: Jesus wept. (John 11:35)
Jesus was physically and emotionally present. He grieved with them. This response is especially interesting because Jesus already knew that a miracle was about to happen and that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew there was something to be hopeful about.
Yet he chose to mourn. To be present. To not try and circumvent the grieving process, but to fully embrace it and all of the emotions that come with it. To just be. No pep talks, no advice. Just the simple solidarity of grieving with someone. It’s such an unassuming, yet powerful response. Matching our emotions to the one who is grieving and supporting them with our presence.
In the wake of my mom’s death, I remember those who simply sat with me, held me, cried with me, and laughed with me. Those were some of the most healing, helpful moments in my journey.
So the next time you see someone grieving, wade out into the water and stand next to them. Be there. Be present. Be emotionally available.
Hold onto your life preserver as you hold onto them. Eventually…when they’re ready…they’ll swim again. In the meantime, just ride the waves and weather the storm together.
It’s one of the best gifts you can give.