When Your Heart Wants To Help, But Your Head Has No Idea What To Say

I recently had a request to resurrect this post from back in 2015. It’s still true…..

People respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died. Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on. I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.

Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. She didn’t find it awkward or uncomfortable to be speaking about the dead and listened intently as I rambled on about how Neil and I met and fell in love. She chuckled with me over funny family stories and laughed at some of the ridiculous arguments Neil and I had over the years. She loved when I showed her my collection of the crazy little frogs that Neil drew on everything he wrote – messages in the girl’s lunch boxes, notes he left for us around the house, and especially on his signature homemade holiday cards.

By the time my friend left, I was still smiling, and I was surprised how much lighter my grief felt. I was stronger from expressing that Neil is still important, still my husband and my children’s father, still the guy who told the best (and the worst) jokes I ever heard and made me laugh either way, the guy who drew crazy frogs. Talking brought all that back to life, back into reality. Granted, it is a different kind of reality now, but talking helped me begin to sort that out, too. And more than I would have guessed, it felt good to laugh, to share, to talk freely without worrying I might make someone else sad.

So the next time you want to help a grieving friend, remember you don’t have to worry about finding the right thing to say. The right thing is simply to listen.

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  1. My work in ministry in the parish has taught me that 99.99 percent of the time, people just want a listening ear – that someone is interested and cares about what they have to say. As trying as that can be at times,(and trust me, it is) it is also so rewarding knowing you are the ears of Christ.

    1. So true, Mary! People usually don’t need suggestions or advise, they usually just need someone to listen as they talk things out for themselves.

  2. It is comforting to talk about someone who is now with the Lord. It brings them close, both the talker and to the listener. They are still an important part of our lives and if we truly believe in the communion of saints, we know that they still participate in our lives. I find myself forgetting that in life I never knew some of my friends loved ones in heaven, but I feel that I do know them now, and some of my friends who never met my daughter in life faithfully remember her and her anniversaries. It is just wonderful to be a part of the mystical body of Christ, we are all always together, wherever we are!!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Maggie. I love to imagine all my deceased relatives together – even if they didn’t know each other in life- and watching from heaven! I can imagine Neil and my Grammy getting along just fine and having lots to talk about 🙂

  3. Colleen, wonderful, timely and much needed advice. thank you so much for sharing this post today at #thoughtProvokingThursday where we are neighbors. I like that we don’t have to really say anything, but we can listen.
    Also, I would love if you would consider linking up to my NEW Thursday Party #TuneInThursday it stays open until Sunday. You can find it here: http://debbiekitterman.com/blog/
    (Please feel free to delete the link if you feel it is inappropriate to post here).

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