You may have heard the phrase “Grief comes in waves” several times before. It is so true.
Last month my kids and I went to California for a much needed break. The favorite part of the trip by far was spending time at the beach. Sophie and Tanner (pictured above) loved chasing the tide and
then running away from it. With my kids begging me to join, I let the unexpected freezing
water cover my feet as it almost took my breath away for just moment, then made a mad dash out of there. It was such a great relief to run away from the icy ocean into the sun-warmed sand. But then again Sophie and Tanner grabbed my hand and led me back. This time I wasn’t sure I wanted to go,
since I knew how freezing cold it was! Water crashed onto my feet, ankles and calves and the sting raced all the way through my body. Slowly, we walked further in and even though it still hurt, I started to become accustomed to the sting and knew soon we could bask in the warm sand.
Grief makes a permanent residence in your heart, always a quiet companion even when you feel you are doing well. The heart-wrenching type of grief, the kind that makes you want to curl into a ball on the floor and sob for an hour, comes in waves. When first losing someone, this type of grief can come crashing several times a day, even each hour. But as time slowly begins to heal your heart bit by bit, the waves come less often, and when they do come, you know what to expect. You know the pain that overtakes your entire being, the sting that takes your breath away and makes you want to run away from it. You know you can’t run but instead need to walk in a little deeper. You’ve got to work through the pain because it will be worth the warmth and peace that comes when the waves recede.
Losing someone isn’t something you can just “deal with” and get over quickly. What makes it so hard is that grief does become a part of you permanently, even when you are happy and finding ways to love life. This isn’t a bad thing, and if you accept it and allow yourself to embrace the periodic waves, it can become a beautiful thing because your heart will grow even bigger than it was before. I’ve learned so many lessons from losing Tony and I know there is still a lot to learn in the years to come.
Everyone one around you is dealing with some sort and degree of grief. It can be a loss of a loved one
though death or divorce, the loss of a career or dreams, infertility, the loss of good health, the loss of stability in finances or family. And all grief hurts. But it can also build you to be stronger: to be more patient, kind, compassionate, understanding, thankful. The hope is that we can take whatever grief we have and put it into action to be strengthened and to build those around us.
It’s a month shy of Tony being gone for a year and a half. So much has changed and I’m trying my
best to honor Tony by moving my family forward in life with new hopes and dreams. I’m incredibly
thankful to the many family and friends who have stood by my side and supported me, and I’m
eternally grateful to the peace and relief I can find from my Savior.
What can we do to help those who are mourning from their loss? In my short experience, the
best thing to do is to be a “builder” in their life.
Someone who is a “builder”:
- gives unconditional love and support
- listens, and listens a lot!
- asks what would be most helpful to them and then follows through
- allows the mourner to cry and to feel down as needed; doesn’t try to sugarcoat their pain or distract them from the hurt they are feeling
- again, listens!
- gives advice only when asked
- validates their feelings, even if you don’t understand or agree
- helps them know it is good to make new dreams and to move forward in life when they feel they are ready; that this is a normal and healthy process
- offers hugs :)
- and most importantly, listens
I stress the listening so much because the mourner knows you can’t fix their grief, that you can’t restore what they had before, that you can’t say anything to make the pain go away. They just need someone who cares and can listen to literally anything they want to share, even if it makes no logical sense. I imagine the Savior while he lived on earth would wrap his arms around someone who is mourning and just listen to their pain. And because he took the time to stop, to listen and to connect, the mourner would feel that because someone cared, they were loved. Christ only builds us up and gently encourages with compassion. He is the ultimate builder.
Be a builder. Stop and listen quietly even when you don’t agree. We don’t know someone else’s pain and heartache, and we won’t fix it by bringing them down with our judgements. Build them up by loving them unconditionally. Jump into those waves with them and build them up.