And if you know someone who’s grieving, do not say: “Call me if you need anything.”
In my most recent short story, the main character, an adolescent male named Luca, jumps off the roof of his high school after hearing about his best friend’s death. He feels responsible for her passing, which contributes to his suicide attempt. Luca has a lot of emotional problems; he wrecks havoc amongst his peers to satisfy his twisted sense of morality. Now imagine the inadequacy of his father coming into his room post-jump and saying:
please let me know what you want me to do
When someone goes through the grieving process – or any prolonged conflict of an emotional sort – they feel overwhelmed. Flooded. Encumbered, to a gruesome extent. By asking the grieving individual what you should do for them, you place even more of a burden on them. Even if they appreciate your kindness and recognize your good intent, they might not reach out for help just because they do not have the energy or the strength to do anything but fight past their sorrow, an already agonizing task.
If you care about someone, show it. Stop reading this and do something. Write a note. Bake cookies. Pick up their mail. Buy their groceries. Just act in a way that reveals that you want to help beyond a text message or a simple “please let me know if you want to talk.” You do not have to save the world; you do not have to revive the dead. Just be there, be anticipatory, be a friend. If someone has a problem, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that this is not about me, this is about my friend. Then ask yourself: what is one thing I can do for this person that will make their life just a little bit easier?
My grandfather passed away this past Monday, before I went home for Thanksgiving break. When I heard the news, I could only think about my grandmother and how sad she might feel. I kept asking myself over and over how I could somehow take away from her immense pain, the devastation of losing someone who she has spent the past 55 years of her life with. So I bought her some of her favorite chocolate, took an old photo album from my basement and brought it to her place, and looked through it with her. As I helped her flip through the laminated pages, my fingers intertwined with hers, I saw so much of our past: my parents before my birth, my aunts altogether and smiling, my grandmother and grandfather standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a clear, blue lake.
I could not bring my grandfather back from the dead, and I could not lift the grief off of my grandmother’s shoulders and throw it off the world. But maybe I made her woe one ounce lighter, even if for just a moment.
What do you guys think about the grieving process? Agree or disagree on my thoughts? The sentiment of “let me know if you need anything” can serve as an alright placeholder for further action, but it should not stand alone, at least in my opinion.
I hope everyone had a fulfilling Thanksgiving, and if you want to read more on how to help a grieving person, you can check out this article. Also, if you want to read my thoughts on Deadwood Dick: Prince of the Road by Edward Wheeler, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, or Victory Lap by George Saunders, you can do so here, here, and here respectively. Thank you for all of your support on my last post, and I look forward to hearing from everyone soon.