I thought I'd share one of the most beautiful examples of holding space for someone that I've come across in my grief work. I hope it will inspire you today the way it did me.
Yesterday I posted about the difficulty of grievers to identify and express specific needs they have, and how sometimes that makes people (me!) make vague offers to help that end up sounding empty and not actually supporting anyone.
These vague offers often feel too risky, because they lack specifics ("Let me know if you need anything"), and the griever doesn't know whether their request will be accepted or rejected, if they ever muster up the energy to put a request out there at all. Grievers already feel incredibly vulnerable, and this can make it worse.
Years ago, right after Rare Bird came out, I met with a newly bereaved mom and dad in their home. Their 15 year old daughter died by suicide, and they wanted to talk to someone a little farther down the road of grief.
The mom told me that 2 friends from church, in those early days of shock and despair, told her they would be available to take a walk with her two days a week.
They said they would show up at the end of her driveway every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 am. If the mom felt up to it, she could come out and walk with them. They could talk about her daughter, talk about insignificant things, or not talk at all. If she didn't feel like walking that day, no hard feelings, but they would keep showing up.
Then, they went to the family calendar hanging on the kitchen wall and wrote "Walk 9am" on all the Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next several months.
When we feel supported, we can use our depleted energy to grieve, process, remember, and ultimately find a path forward. When we don't feel supported, we can expend our precious energy being angry at the people who let us down. Believe me, I've been there! This is why support is crucial.
This mom felt seen and supported. She got out of the house into the sunshine and the rain at time when walking on her own may have made her feel too exposed and vulnerable. Her friends' commitment to showing up and spending this time with her week after week, month after month, was an important acknowledgment that something significant and earth shattering had taken place. Not just in her family, but in the world, because we are all connected.
They bore witness to her pain.
Doing so is not easy, by any means, but it is loving and often remarkable.