"Don't let perfect become the enemy of good -- If you don't know what to say, start the conversation by saying just that."
How do we best help someone who is grieving. Over loss of parent, child, relationship, dreams, etc? And how do we give advice to a friend when you feel like the answer is obvious, without hurting their feelings?
Sharing grief is a funny thing this way; it can fill us up so helplessly, heavily at times that we find ourselves drowning in the sentiments we can't seem to vocalize. Even if we really wish to say the right, most healing and supportive things. Even if we really want to solve problems and be a person to evoke positive change in others.
So, thank you for asking this question. And it's just my humble opinion, but....
Listen. In all my months of coach training and continuing to grow my practice, this is the #1 takeaway: Magic happens when we listen not from a place of how-does-this-relate-to-me, or aha! I know just what you should do! -- but from a space of soft, open, self-managed presence. The unspoken energy waiting to be picked up on, if only someone would give it a chance to speak its truth, will knock your socks off. This can be especially difficult in scenarios where we perceive the "answer" to be oh so obvious. If so-and-so would just listen to our sage advice, all their problems would be solved! But alas, it rarely ever works this way. Each being and each situation is a delicately woven story, rich with varying details of experiences past, and future fears. There's no way to easily slice through all of that without denying some very precious learning. Let yourself off the advice hook, and really listen, instead. But Trish, what if they are very persistent in asking for advice? Well, Dr. Phil, turn it back on them. Try inquiring what they would most want for you, in this difficult space.
Ask. Be curious, and be humble. Get ready, because this is seriously groundbreaking stuff....
How can I best support you?
I know, right? Truly riveting.
In the case of a dear friend of mine, the immediate response to this question was “Let me say shitty things.” All my friend needed was a space to be the worst version of herself while she dealt with repeated hard news. She wasn't looking for comfort in the form of silver linings or suggestions or offers for prayers. She just wanted to say shitty ass things without remorse -- and this, remarkably, lightened her emotional load better than any of my most well spoken condolences.
Touch. Why are we so hesitant to make physical contact? Good lord, I love to be touched. Here is a bit of truth as I see it: Our spirits inhabit these physical bodies for a reason. Touch is a beautiful gift that connects us while we are here on earth. Let’s use it while we can. A simple hug or light placement of a hand to an arm conveys a gentle message of “I’m here” more powerfully than any fumbling of words for the sake of filling space ever could. Have you felt yourself resisting the urge to scoop up someone you love, breath in their pain and shield them from the world? While there might be logistical problems with this (ie I could never physically lift B - the man is twice my size) and social graces to consider, I say to hell with denying this completely valuable urge.
Remind. No one likes to feel forgotten. No one relishes the vibe that while others may be cognizant of their difficult situation, they continue to lead their lives without a recognition of this because it's too hard, or uncomfortable, or close to home. Remind your people of your awareness. Remind them that you are available in whatever ways feel right, and genuine. And maybe send one of these cards, which are so brilliantly, accessibly human that it’s hard to believe a large-staffed conglomerate such as Hallmark has not managed to create anything nearly as great.
Show up. Equally broken. Confused. Awkward as hell. Casserole, cupcakes, wine or flowers preferably in hand. The details here don't really matter -- just show up. Again and again, imperfectly and weirdly and occasionally unannounced. Not everyone is great at asking for help, so take a chance and just do something to see where it lands. There's always the ability to course correct later.
In summary? Less head energy and more heart space.
You've got this.
Happy healing, you big hearted beings.