Grief Gift: How a Friend Can Help

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 ahttps://www.amazon.com/dp/161846034X/

 

 

Jane Williams

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I am a recently retired clinical psychologist who worked for over 25 years with individuals who had experienced trauma, life threatening illness, and grief. After completing a Ph.D. at the University of Memphis, I completed postdoctoral fellowships at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Harvard Medical School. At Harvard, I trained in medical crisis counseling and later developed the Medical Crisis and Loss Clinic at Arkansas Children's Hospital. I helped plan and participated in the "Good Mourning" Program at ACH, made national presentations at grief conferences (ADEC), and published peer-reviewed articles on grief. In addition to my work in grief, I published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, 3 book chapters, and one test manual on various psychological topics. After retirement from the Wake Forest Medical School as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, I wrote and recently published a book, Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief. In retirement, I spend most of my time with my hands in clay and writing. Apart from my academic description, I would have to describe my work in grief as providing the most meaningful experiences that I have had in my life. When someone allows you to walk down their path of suffering and loss, it is an unbelievable journey that results in a bonded relationship and teaches about the resilience of the human spirit. Although I am no longer engaged in active therapy, I would like to contribute articles that would be helpful to grieving individuals. I am the author of Mysterious Moments: Thoughts That Transform Grief, available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/161846034X/

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