I was at two funerals yesterday.
It was a long day. The two services were different, and they were the same. Both men will be missed terribly.
I think sometimes it can be confusing to be on the periphery of grief. Mostly if you’re in the center, you know your role. Your role is to grieve, whatever that looks like to you. It is to eat some of the food that people put in front of you, if you can manage to. It is to show up at the funeral home and the church, and to decide which songs will be in the service. After all of that is over, it is learn to go on with a gaping hole in your heart. None of that is easy. But it’s pretty clear.
But what if you are just a friend of the bereaved? What if you are just a coworker? A cousin? There’s the food bit. There’s showing up to the calling hours. After that, it can get a little hazy. What can you do?
Because we are do-ers, most of us. We want to show up with a gift in our hands; we want evidence that we have done something. It is hard to decide what to do.
This is even harder, I think. Because I think what we need to do for our friends and our neighbors and our cousins that are grieving is to show up.
We want to avoid suffering, all of us. We take medicine to avoid physical pain. For emotional pain, we choose avoidance. It is hard to watch people suffer. It makes us suffer a little ourselves. It’s easier to stay away. To bring a meal and get out of the kitchen and away from the suffocating sadness as quickly as we can.
We need to pause instead. To ask, “How are you right now?” and then — this is the hardest part — to shut up and listen. Maybe for a minute. Maybe for a long time. Whatever they need.
More than anything, we need to stop running away from pain. We need to show up. To mourn with those who mourn.