Silence can be a very safe and sacred place when one is grieving. Recently, I spoke with a woman who had a very tragic sudden death in her life. She could barely speak as she tried to explain to me the things that people were saying to her. She was hurt and angry about the comments. These people are not trying to be mean; they just have no idea how you feel or what you are going through.
When we see someone suffering, we want to fix it. We want that person happy again, back to their old self, living life the way they used to. After losing a loved one these things take time, sometimes years. It makes people uncomfortable to see you grieving.
People will say things, sometimes really hurtful things. It’s true. A very short time after my mother died, my neighbor said to me, “Why are you so sad still?” It had only been 7 days! Being who I am, I said, “Is your mother alive?” He replied that he never knew his mom; she died when he was born.
This man should not have been telling me how to feel. He was uncomfortable with my grief and wanted me to move on.
First, realize you don’t need to explain yourself. The lady I described could barely speak at this point in her grief. Grieving is exhausting. Ever hear the term I have no more tears left to cry? Yet, they still come day after day and we wonder will it ever stop? My advice to her was to use hand gestures. Holding up one hand to say stop or put her finger to her lips expresses that I can’t talk right now, or I don’t wish to speak. Perhaps placing one hand on her heart to say I am very sad. This will send the message that nothing needs to be said.
What I have witnessed is when people are grieving they feel best with those who do understand that even though they may not comprehend your pain they love you unconditionally. This is what the grieving heart needs. There are no explanations, no fixing, just witnessing and holding a loving space for another to feel safe in their grief.
Our society does not know what to do in the silence. Holding the space to be whatever it is you need to be is such a gift to a grieving heart. The squeeze of a hand, eye contact, nodding the head when listening and staying engaged for that person gives them safety in that most sacred silence. It speaks volumes without saying a word.
Wishing you peace on your journey.