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An open letter to friends of the grieving


Last week was hell. I got the news not once, not twice, but three times.

I'm trying to figure out why I don't allow myself permission to express sorrow. Why don't I let myself ask for support, prayer, or comfort? It's not necessarily that I don't want it. It's more like there is an internal gate in my brain that doesn't allow me to voice it.

The truth is, it's heavy business, telling your friends that you've lost someone. Not only does it make it more real, but after it is out in mutual airspace, you also have to carry the weight of your friends' discomfort on top of the already mountainous weight of death. So, friend, here's what I ask.

If I'm acting strange or more quiet than usual, ask if there is anything going on. Most likely, there is, and even if I can't explain it to you in that moment, I notice when you notice, and it is a great comfort to me to know that you care. Death weighs heavy and I think, in some way, it distorts us on a metaphysical level. When that type of mutation happens in my soul, it's nice to know that it is recognized. I don't want to be seen the same, because I'm not the same.

Acknowledging that cosmic shift in someone's world takes a lot of effort. It's like getting to know them all over again. If you can, please take the time and energy to do that. When we grieve, we also feel the pressure to be the same person we were before death touched us, and it's just not possible. That expectation only leads us to pretending or compartmentalizing who we are, and that becomes a greater weight to live with.

So, love us fully. Don't become less in order to accomodate our need to be more for a time. We know you love us, and we need to hear it and feel it, especially now. But try not to love us too softly, nor too harshly. Put your head in the same space as ours and feel the shift in our universe. It isn't comfortable, and we hate to ask for that kind of empathy, but in the end, that's exactly what we need. We need to know that you love us just as much now, with a mind full of sharp objects and dark weight, as you do when we're easy to love.

If you'd like to comfort those around you who are mourning, engage with the discomfort and know that it will be messy. Some days, we'll need you close, and some days, we'll need to cope alone. The important part for us is knowing that a friend will be there either way, unafraid to accept the uncertainty. We need a friend who can separate our raw emotion from what we really mean. And we need a friend who has the patience to walk each step with us, no matter how slow.

We also need those closest to us to encourage us forward without putting our experience in a box.

I honestly believe I didn't share my loss with someone this week because I do not want a church answer. I desperately do not want to be reminded of God's love. I know it's there. I know He grieves more than I do, and I simply want to be. Experiencing God's grief is part of my personal process, and I need that part of Him to not be shooed away for the sake of getting back to a "good" place in my faith. Sometimes, that only highlights your impatience with me, and I'd rather grieve alone than be a burden to you. After so many years, I have developed a unique relationship with God and with death. And my dear friend, as good as your intentions are, now is not to the time to project your fear for my soul on the graves of those I love. Sorrow is part of growth, and the most healthy way to grow is to let that sorrow be experienced in its fullness.

“It does a body good to let the healing waters flow." - The Shack

I feel like it's worth mentioning that this post is not directed toward any one person. I wanted to write about this in order to understand my own fears and broken process, in an effort to help those around me understand, and to hold myself accountable for the way I think of them in my grief. This also may not be true for everyone - we all have different experiences. I recognize that I'm an artist with hypersensitive emotions. For those who have different needs, I'd love to learn how to love you through grief as well.

Every loss is different. And every death has a different ripple effect. Some impact my music. Some impact my faith. Some impact my family dynamic. Some impact my view of the world around me. No matter what, death is change. And change is hard.

This post feels very abstract, and there are no concrete answers or pictures to help. Maybe I'm not in a place to offer that yet. Maybe I'm still waiting to cry the right tears, or the right words. Regardless, thank you for listening. Thank you for sticking around when many would leave. Your compassion is so appreciated. I couldn't move forward without the hope that people like you remind me of. This post is a shipwreck, but I appreciate you reading to the end. Thank you for letting me finish my fractured thought and process in the only way I know how - writing.

"Write hard and clear about what hurts."

- Ernest Hemingway

St. Louis, MO, USA

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