Sometimes it is better not to speak at all when you are with a grieving friend. But silence that is awkward and uncomfortable, with fear swirling around you as you sit—this is not helpful.
Did you know that human beings have the capacity to “radiate” their feelings—it is called limbic resonance. It means that when you walk into a room and you have a hunch someone is feeling really down or really scared, you are actually picking up on the waves of feeling that are radiating from their emotional system.
Sitting beside a grieving friend and worrying about what to say to them is not helpful—it may even become a burden to them. They may feel they need to take care of you, make you feel more comfortable.
But sitting beside a grieving friend, feeling sure that your love for them will be just as strong through the storm of grief, feeling that there is nothing else you would rather be doing right now than caring for them with your presence—this is a gift. A treasure.
And your comfort level with your own pain, your compatibility with tears—your ability to embrace tears as a means of healing—this is the freedom that they need to feel from people around them that it is okay to grieve.
If they are grieving an old loss, something they buried decades ago, they need that permission even more than if it was recent. Chances are they have heard numerous times that it is “time to move on”—don’t say it again, even with your “emotional waves”. With everything you’ve got tell them the opposite:
It’s okay to cry. Tears are for healing. Grieving loss is a necessary step toward healing. I’m here to care about you, even if I have nothing to say.
Be the friend that gives more than words. Be the friend that gives the gift of silence in a wave of genuine love and care.