As I sat down to write I honestly had no idea where my thoughts would take me, but after an almost month-long break from posting, I felt this strong urge to share more of my heart with you all.
It's been almost 4 and a half years since we lost our daughter Savannah and although I grew up always hearing that "time heals all wounds" I can now say with confidence that that is not true, at least for myself on this side of Heaven. Jesus prepares us for this though in John 16:33 by saying "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." He also promises that there will be a day with no more pain and every tear will be wiped away. (Revelation 21:4) Oh, how that makes me long for Heaven!!!
But, what do we do until then? When we are deep in the pit of grief and darkness overwhelms us? I was catching up with a sweet friend the other day on the phone and this topic came up and she said:
"I'll sit in the pit with you!"
I almost cried!!! What a concept, and also why hadn't I thought of that before? I found myself stuck on that thought for the following few days and ultimately realized that it is because of 2 things. One, we typically feel like we need to hide our grief or cover up the pain and two, not many people want to get down into the depths of our struggles with us.
So often when I know someone struggling I'm quick to try and 'fix' the problem or offer advice. Never have I thought about climbing down into the pit that they are in and just sitting in that with them. As I'm writing I find myself wondering what that would even look like. I thought I would share some things that have been helpful in my grief journey and ways that people have 'climbed into the pit' with us along the way.
Be a listener- I thought about just writing the word 'listen' here, but I really believe there is a big difference in listening vs being a listener. Anyone can listen, but to being a listener requires your heart to be fully invested and open to hearing what is shared. This has made a huge difference in how I've processed my grief. Having people who would allow me to be transparent and feel raw emotions with them has been incredibly helpful.
Share the weight- By this I mean, carry some of their load. Grief is heavy and often feels as so, especially if you are traveling it alone. Offer to do some of the difficult things they are having a hard time with. The Lord calls us to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Be willing to mourn with them and bear the weight that comes from loss with them.
Learn their triggers- This is something that I feel isn't talked about enough outside of the loss community. And yet, I believe is vital information for those who truly want to be in the pit with you. A grief trigger is anything that brings up memories related to a loss. It can be something as obvious as a birthday or something that completely surprises you. For me, sometimes it is just a certain smell that reminds me of Savannah, a little girl who is around her age, or anytime I see baby girl clothes. This is just a few, but I could probably make a whole list. While I wouldn't expect you to remember all of their triggers, I think it is crucial that you are at least aware and can then be sensitive to them.
Let them feel- One of the greatest gifts our 'pit friends' ever gave us after Savannah was the freedom to feel. The freedom to be ok or be ok that we're not ok. Never stop their tears. The best way to travel through grief is to do just that... travel. Allow them to cry and get those tears out, allow them to laugh and verbally grant them that right. I remember thinking that if I smiled after losing Savannah then that would somehow signal that I was ok without her. I know how twisted that is, but that is where my head was at. Looking back I am so thankful for the precious friend who sat me down and told me that "just because you smile again doesn't mean that I will ever think that your world will be ok without her in it."
Be consistent- The pit is dark. It's the depths of their grief and pain. If you are willing to sit there with them, be consistent with that. I know how busy life can be and it is hard to find the time... that's why you have to make the time. Make this a priority and I promise it will leave such an impact. Those who have dropped everything to come over, or answer my phone calls at 3am are truly angels in my eyes.
Grief is messy, but so is life. I challenge you to see what it would be like to be a friend or family member who crawled into the pit with those who are struggling. I'm sure that will look a little different for each of us, but I know it would make such a difference because I've seen that to be true in my own life. I am so grateful for my 'pit crew' and the ways they have come alongside us in this journey and even carried us through when we weren't sure we'd make it.
Find your 'pit crew' and let them love you hard!