Our overwhelming feelings of loss during grief often make any grief gift hard to imagine. We search our inner world and wonder how we will put the pieces back together. What can possibly bring us any feeling of gratitude?
Suddenly, our thoughts turn to our friend — the person who is with us, fully present, right now. This person can focus solely on our grief with no preoccupation or telling of his or her own suffering. Our comforter offers no platitudes and simply recognizes our need to be heard. We can tell our grief story over and over and our friend listens as if hearing it for the first time. There is no rush for us to finish and no fear of judgment about our words.
Our friend has no need to fix our grief. This person acknowledges that there are no perfect words that will end our sadness –words may not even be necessary. Comfort can be found in the silence of this person’s presence. Our friend does not try to stop our tears and is not distressed by our words of sadness, anger, fear, or disappointment. There is no distance between us.
Our friend may offer a hug or a gentle touch that reminds us that even in grief, we can be given a life-affirming gift.
Henri Nouwen wrote beautifully about this type of friend: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness. That is a friend who cares.”
Jane Williams is the author of Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief. It is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/161846034X/