The calls and texts were overwhelming the week she died. Between supporting my devastated parents, planning the funeral, and keeping myself from collapsing in my own sorrow, I was running on empty. So, I ignored most of the messages—confident I’d hear from everyone again when things quieted down.
But then things quieted down, and my phone also quieted down. They didn’t keep calling.
This was OK at first, even good. I needed some space to grieve, to process. But as the weeks wore on, that space began to feel more like isolation. Then isolation began to feel more like rejection.
And the longer it lasted, I wondered if I had any friends left at all.
I get it, it’s weird to be around someone who just buried their sister. Or their brother, their mom, their child, their unborn baby. You wonder, Should I mention it or not mention it? It is OK to laugh around her? Will I accidentally trigger her in some way? What on earth will I do if she falls apart into a fit of tears? It can feel terribly awkward. She feels awkward too—actually, everything about living through grief is awkward. But trust me, she still really needs you.
So, how can you be a good friend to someone who is grieving?
Include her in the group text.
You may think, I’m bothering her; she doesn’t want to see these. Well, you’re not. And yes, she does want to see all 30 of the chaotic messages. The flurry of ridiculous GIFs will give her a welcome distraction from her sadness.
Don’t worry about having the right words—she doesn’t expect you to. Just let her know you still care enough about her to pick up the phone once in a while.
Better yet, invite her out.
She may not come, but she probably will. And if she starts to cry, just listen. She doesn’t expect you to fix her or say the perfect thing. She just wants to be somewhere else, talking about something else. So take her out for a night.
And if she doesn’t want to be out, go to her.
Bring her flowers, dinner, a bottle of wine. Give her the simple gift of your time and presence.
Whatever you do, please don’t exclude her.
Grief is already heavy enough—don’t let her also feel rejected. She needs less space and more of you.
And when grief strikes you, she’ll remember. She may not have the perfect words either, but she’ll know when to stop giving space and start showing up. She will never let you feel rejection on top of grief. So don’t let her either.