I know I said I’d stop with the grief talk, but there’s one more thing I wanted to mention. I’ve spent some time sharing things that are good to say when someone you know has experienced a loss. Even so, you might think it’s not the right time, or maybe you’re not sure if you are close enough to the person to be confident they’ll appreciate what you say. If that’s the case, you should know that when people are in the initial phases of grieving they often don’t remember what is said to them. They will simply remember that you were there.
Perhaps that’s why we often focus on doing things for someone who is bereaved. We can relate on some level to that helpless feeling the person is dealing with. We know they don’t have the energy to confront the day’s tasks alone. So we show up at the memorial service. We do their forgotten household repairs. We take them out for comfort food.
One of my favorite passages in literature is at the end of Tolkien’s Return of the King. Frodo has just sailed off into the West forever, leaving Sam behind. Watching the ship disappear, Sam stays on the shore with his 2 companions “far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth, and the sound of them sank deep into his heart. Beside him stood Merry and Pippin, and they were silent.”
Even if it doesn’t seem like much, the gift of your presence may be the best thing you can provide.