Death is tricky, and somewhat of a difficult thing to navigate as a friend of someone who’s suffered loss. Having been through loss myself, I have learned what is helpful and what is not, but if you’ve never experienced loss, you might not know how to help a grieving pal.
Looking back to losing my parents, it’s interesting to me how both instances felt similar even when family/friend support was different.
When I lost my dad I was 16, a junior in high school, and my needs were simple. I needed to feel safe and taken care of since my mom was out of town at the time, and I needed emotional and physical support until she could arrive to handle the situation. My dad’s death was sudden, and people had no time to prepare what they wanted to say to comfort me.
The phrase I heard most often was “Oh don’t worry, because he is in a better place.”
A better place? What better place could there be than here? He was fine here. Or so my 16-year-old self thought. Yes I was a Christian, blah blah blah heaven, of course, of course. But after you get home from swim practice to find your dad dead, the last thing you want to hear is anything mildly optimistic. I wanted to hear facts. I wanted to be certain that things would work out, not be comforted by the thought that they might.
No one could offer me that. Except God.
I found comfort in the following weeks in knowing that my dad was a believer and that he was now at peace. I came to accept, that yes the place he is in now must be better than here, according to the Bible; but I couldn’t feel that right away because I thought he was fine on Earth.
Was he really fine, Molly? How do you know? Right. I had no idea. In my 16 year old mind things were great before, but what did I really know?
Now that I am turning 25, and have lost both parents in different ways, I now understand what people meant by “better place.” My mom suffered so much in her final days, that yes, she is in a much better place physically — not suffering anymore.
The truth is, there really is nothing you can say when someone is grieving. The best thing you can do is let them know you’re there if they ever need to vent, talk, or go for a long, silent, car ride.