Grievers Probably Won't Reach Out To You

By Barbara Karnes

As I travel this grief path I am seeing that many people don't know what to do or say to grievers. There can be awkwardness, even avoidance from people.

I remember when a friend’s son died and Jack and I were on the way to the visitation, husband Jack asked me what he could say to our friends. He didn’t know what to say and he knew there was really nothing he could do for them. I suggested he say just that, “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”

There seem to be so many cliches that offer condolences. “I’m sorry for your loss,” “He is at peace now,” “He is with God,” I found no comfort there.

What I’ve learned in my grief is that words are just words. It is the intent of offering support, concern, affection that rides behind the words that matters. There was my comfort - people taking time to touch me.

Writing a note says more than the words in the note. It says I thought enough about you to take the time to send this correspondence. I have a friend that simply sent me a picture text each day for more than a month. I actually looked forward to those pictures - flowers, pets, the universe. Those texts said without words “I’m thinking of you.”

When do you call and say “can I come over with McDonald’s” or “let’s go to lunch”? How soon is too soon? I suppose that depends on the closeness of the relationship. A very close friend, anytime; a social friend, perhaps in a few weeks - a “get out of the house, I’m here if you need anything” kind of lunch.

I’ve noticed people are hesitant to talk about the person that died or use their name. By all means talk about our special person. Talk about “remember when,” about how they touched your life, and how much you cared about them.

Another thing to be aware of is we, grievers, will probably not reach out to you. We will not say “I need to talk with someone” or “I’m lonely and need a friend today.” We may even say “I can’t today.” But don’t give up on us. Keep reaching out. Keep being there.

These are just a few of my thoughts as I travel this new road of grief. I figure if I’m having these thoughts then so are others. Again, just something to think about.