Friendship, even in the best of times, can be difficult to navigate. Friendship, in the midst of deep grief and tragedy, can feel nearly impossible.
Four years ago, my friend, Kristin, lost her husband, Conner, in a sudden accident. There are no words to describe the heartbreak of watching a friend go through such a tragic experience. And while I certainly wish she had been spared from such a loss, it has been an honor to walk this road beside her; it has taught me much about true friendship and the love of Christ.
Most of us would do anything for the friends we love. Just as Christ bore our heartache and suffering, we long to do the same for them. But like much of the grieving process, there’s not a manual for loving our friends well in these times. Insecurity, fear, and general discomfort can tempt us to pull away from their grief. I have learned, however, that there is more power in reaching out than we could hope and more beauty in the ashes than we could imagine.
Kristin and I met in 2012 at a luncheon hosted by a mutual friend. It was one of those moments when something clicks over a glass of punch and suddenly, you have a new best friend. We started meeting once a week for coffee and never looked back.
About a month after Conner’s death, I offered to bring her coffee, and she accepted. I was happy to spend time with her but anxious how it would go or what I should say.
As I pulled up to her house, I whispered a silent prayer for God to give me the grace to be what she needed that day. We ended up sitting on her couch for three hours. I barely said a word, just listening as she described what her life had been like in the past month. She talked about Conner, and between sips of coffee, we laughed at her memories and cried for her loss.
In the early days of Kristin’s grief, I felt she and I had been separated by a canyon. While I could see her wandering on the other side, a veil was between us, obstructing my view. I could not see her clearly. She could not hear me calling to her. She was alone, and I was unsure how to get to her.
Fear often threatens to widen this gap. Every time I thought to reach out, I worried I might cause Kristin more pain by reminding her of her loss. It is true that specific people or places can make grief more acute. I believe, however, it’s better to err on the side of reaching out than pulling back. Their grief is ever before them; to have someone reach out to them serves as a stronger reminder of their community than of their pain.
Christ set the perfect example for us to follow in these difficult times. Prior to his birth, all of humankind was separated from God by a chasm. Christ came and entered our grief, bore our burdens, and met our greatest need by dying for our sins. He bridged the chasm with a cross.
How does this translate into loving our grieving friends? It means showing up in person and meeting the needs they might not be able to articulate. Drop off a cup of coffee. Mow their lawn. Spend time with their kids. Send them an encouraging text. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. They may not be able to. Instead, look for opportunities to love them and follow through when the Spirit prompts you.
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To read more about loving our grieving friends well, visit MorningbyMorning.org, where this piece originally posted.