I will never forget that text exchange on a cold, winter day just nine months after burying my baby and I was asked how I was doing. Not a simple question for a bereaved mama.

It was the middle of February, near my birthdayheart awareness monthjust a month after my heart warrior’s seventh birthday. I answered as bluntly as my honest, foggy brain allowed me, “I hate February!”

And, I secretly prayed my comment would be answered with two words: I KNOW. and maybe a cry-face emoji.

Instead, I got a text response that said, “Why? It is your birthday, Valentine’s Day, your other daughter’s birthday! Those are reasons to celebrate and things to enjoy!”

I shuddered.

I felt so alone and made to feel even worse than I already did if that was even possible.

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I then received a reminder from this person about how they wished I would learn to live and love life again and that they hoped I would start “looking forward to life again.” They then tried to cushion the blow by saying they are “concerned about me” and say this only because they “love” me.

This is not how to love a grieving person.

Will you just sit with me?

When someone you love is deeply grieving, here is how to best love them: LET THEM GRIEVEwith no timeline.

And, if you want to love them well, choose to bravely enter their broken world and just choose to courageously sit with them and hold a holy space for all their pain.

Please remember, regardless of how long ago the tragedy happened, they are now forever residing in complete destructiona complete obliteration of all that was and never will be againand you cannot magically pull them out, guilt them out, or talk them me out of their broken places of pain. These strategies only serve to hurt the broken ones even more.

You can only wait with them for light. Wait for oxygen. Wait for life.

I know you mean well and are doing the best you know how to love those who hurt deeply, but I am asking you to take a moment to re-learn all you thought you understood about helping the hurting. Verbalizing your frustration at their grief is not how to love those who feel like everything in and around them has died. This is not how to love a broken person. This is how to make them feel even worse.

Unless you truly have gone through exactly what they are going through, you cannot fully understand.

But. 

I am asking that you try to understand just one thing if you want to talk to someone who has walked through utter, unspeakable, devastating tragedy.

You need to let them be broken.

Let them sit in all their brokenness. Do not try to fast track them through it or tell them how it makes you feel or how they frustrate you.

Just sit and weep with them and carry the pain with them.

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Feel the pain with them. Sit in the all the awkward. Let them grieve uncensored, and you just sit.

I know this is not easy because you love them and hate to see them so broken and want so desperately to just fix their pain and take it away. We live in such a fix-it society that tries to numb the pain and slap a Band-Aid on top.

But, avoiding the pain and shelving the pain only leads to even more disaster.

The blood needs to pour out.

The wrestling needs to happen.

The groans need to be heard.

Intimacy with our Jesus comes when we bleed with Him. He is not afraid of our pain. Will you be brave enough to bleed with your person? This is what it means to show Jesus to them. Weep with those who weep.

Until we start humbly entering into the awkward, holy ground of people’s depths of brokenness and ugly pain instead of trying to fix them to make us more comfortable, then we will never understand the gospel love of Immanuel that sits in the broken garden and bleeds with us.

This grief is not able to be fixed, it needs to be fully felt and fully carriedthe emotion is made to move through us.

No pep talk will suddenly make a broken person rise up . . . it will only hurt more and beat them down lower. Do not add to their hurt, please.

Do not be the one who adds grief to grief.

You see, this place we sit is a midnight space that beckons only for a brave witness to just sit in the dark with us until light supernaturally breaks through the broken cracks of our black skies.

Wait and watch for light with them. Wait for light and feel how God comes close to all their broken pieces.

To give a broken soul the sacred space to lament and to fully feel and express their own uncensored pain is to offer the most powerful pathway to hope and love.

Bear witness to this holy encounter—watch the man of sorrows draw near. It will change you.

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No words are necessary, just a sacred with-ness. But, if you must speak, the only adequate words that help are words of agreement, with no judgment.

It is against the Western culture’s knee-jerk mentality, this kind of love that is needed for the most broken, and this kind of love will be needed well into the future as your person continues to deal with the collateral losses that ensue. Grief does not expire and so this love can’t expire either.

Just wait with them. Even if you have to wait your whole life, always be the one who will sit with them in their brokenness.

Because no matter how long it has been since the tragedy, grief has the unpredictable power to crush a person.

Grief is not linear, and at any given moment a broken heart can be catapulted back to that unimaginable ground of destruction that wants to swallow them alive, and they need the bravest of soldiers to just sit with them and not have any answers at all. Just sit and weep with the ones who are weeping.

Sit with us in our broken gardens.

This is the kind of love that breathes hope into the grieving heart.

This kind of courage forges a pocket of oxygen to the one who is drowning.

This is how to be a lifeline.

Just sit with.

Sit in the dark and wait for light with her.

Johanna Cannelongo

I’m a wife and mama of eight children, four naturally and four “supernaturally” by the gift of adoption. I live in Maryland on a little farmette with my amazing and funny husband, Brian. Often I can be found gardening, in the barnyard chasing goats and chickens, or at my computer writing, reading all the books, or homeschooling my kiddos. Though there is much goodness in the land of the living, there is much grief walking the journey of child loss and navigating that pathway through the desert. My passion is to write from the depths of the wilderness and to pass the blazing torch of light to other wilderness-walkers through the sacred story I’ve been given the honor to steward in this life. Jesus is my song of LIVING HOPE and hope saves my broken soul every day. I write at wildflowerhope.com.