Friday, March 17, 2017

on grief ... for when you've disengaged

Your friend lost a loved one. A family member lost her  job. Another is sick, another is dealing with infertility, another is going through a divorce. One has a wayward child. And so on. You love her, and you wish you could somehow help her, make it better, ease her pain.

But instead you disengaged from her. The immediate crisis is over, and maybe you’ve been busy, and maybe you just don’t know what to say, you’re so afraid to get it wrong that you don’t do anything at all.

And now time has gone by and gone by and you feel guilty about it but you also feel like it’s too late to fix it. You got it wrong, you vow to do better next time, but you still wish you could have a do-over.

Don’t feel bad. You are not alone. This is hard. There’s no easy answers. But now, your wishes keep crowding into your mind and you don’t know how you could possibly re-engage after all this time.

Your friend might be angry with you. Disappointed in you. Even resentful toward you. These fears are real, but are they valid? Maybe. Maybe not.

What now?

First, determine that you are going to try. You are going to reach out, even though you feel guilty and afraid. You are going to do this with love and no expectations.

Next, arm yourself with some information. What do I say? How do I act around her? Will she reject me and if she does what do I do with that? (There are lots of resources for this step, including a little book I wrote called Peering Into the Tunnel: An Outsider’s Look Into Grief. No pressure but if you’re interested you can get a copy here.)

Then, prepare yourself. Maybe she will welcome you with open arms. But maybe not. Maybe she can’t right now, but down the road she will. Or maybe she won’t. Oh man, this is scary.

You must be willing to be your most vulnerable self. You must be humble. You maybe should apologize (you’ll know if you should, I promise). And you must be ok with the result regardless of how your overtures are received.

Really? This sounds like the perfect setup for rejection, right? Yep. It is.

But you know what? Even if your overtures are not well-received, if there is no option for re-engagement right now because your friend can’t, or won’t, you should do it.

It? What is it?

Maybe start simple. Send a “thinking about you today” text.

Send a card. Even if it’s been awhile.

Remember those important days. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.

Offer to do/be whatever you have to offer. It might not be much, but that’s ok. It’s the offering that matters. It’s the willingness to humbly re-engage, even if you’re scared.

But you also have to be prepared that you may not get the response you hoped for. For various reasons. She simply might not be able to engage on the level you desire. Maybe not at all. Truthfully, she might be disappointed in you. Don’t be surprised. Be humble. Don’t grovel, but release your guilt and shame. Let it go.

But if something like rejection happens, you will surely be sad. Disappointed. You expected to be received differently. Your job is to do your thing, whatever it is, and release the results to God. I mean, really release them.

Maybe, just maybe, down the road she will be able to engage with you. The important thing is to TRY. And keep in mind that there’s a very good chance that the simple act of reaching out, however that looks, may now or later be a comfort to her. Be ok with that, even if she never tells you.

If she does welcome you, then what? You still might not know what to say. You did NOT expect this, and now you’re paralyzed. Please please please do not disengage again. Don’t force yourself on her, be wise about how far to go, and follow your instincts. Because you have them. Follow them. Do.

Here’s something helpful.

Remember not to pour in  your own worries and struggles on them. Maybe later. You’ll know. But certainly not at first. If you need to dump out your own pain, dump out. Determine where you are in this drawing, and be willing to pour into anyone in a circle smaller than yours.

This could be costly for you. You need boundaries.  But mostly, you need to let go of your guilt and just do it. Just reach out SOMEHOW.

And then pray. No matter what else does or doesn’t happen, pray. For wisdom for you, for comfort for her. That somehow you will be a comfort to her. That you will be ok with the result.

Again, trust your gut. If you don’t know if you can trust yours, ask a trusted friend or family member. Dump out for a minute and let them pour into you the wisdom they have gained from their own experiences.

Love her.

Don’t forget to love her, even from afar.



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