The first thing I need you to know is this, I am not an expert. I’m not the pro coming here to tell you how to live your life from a position of superior knowledge or experience. In fact at 29 years old I’m wildly aware of how much I DON’T know on this and every topic. But I’ve been having so many conversations with friends and even thoughts of my own that I’ve been sorting through and praying through and thought I would share some suggestions on how to navigate loss, a grieving community, and hurting friends and even “enemies” right now. So here goes:
- Not everyone grieves the same way.
Be cautious, curious, and compassionate. Do not be surprised when one of your friends is ok and another is very not ok. Neither person, or anyone else somewhere else in the spectrum of grief, is wrong. Anger, sadness, depression, denial, bargaining are all the emotions of grief and even those look different in individual lives. Don’t feel the need to point out or be taken aback by two different people who are saying things about this situation that almost seem to contrast with one another. People grieve differently. Let them.
- You are going to get it wrong.
Part of the territory of people grieving differently is that you will inevitably say/do something that will hurt someone or that they will think you should have done differently. Especially when you don’t share their life experience. That’s ok. Humble yourself to recognize you are not the subject matter expert here. Also recognize that being right or doing it right isn’t the ultimate solution that is going to fix things. Be willing to receive feedback and learn and grow from it to be a better friend to those in your life.
- Create a safe space.
Checking in and asking how your friends are doing and processing this is a must. But understand, some people won’t answer you. Some people will need space. Some people will need to talk. Some people can’t talk any longer, especially if that means having to explain their whole life to you. Be a listening ear when you can but also don’t take silence or space personal. Its not about you. Being a friend requires being a friend in and out of season. LISTEN. Its not about what you have to say. But listen and care. If you don’t care, I would ask you to check your heart. Genuinely, before God ask him to reveal to you your heart. If an entire community and people you care about are grieving deeply and you are unmoved that should at least send you seeking the why.
- Staying silent is not the answer.
Related to the last point, so many stay silent on matters of injustice because there’s a fear that you are going to get it wrong and bumble through it or that someone can more eloquently communicate it. But if you can swallow your pride enough to deal with the fact that you are going to get it wrong, then even in your bumbled attempts at being a friend, ally, voice for injustice you might bring awareness or conviction or sorrow to someone else that only your circle touches. Your silence on the other hand has the power to wound those who are weary in shouting and fighting the never-ending battle
- You are not the hero of this story.
This one can be hard and can be so easy to fly under the radar. Are you prepared to carry someone’s burden, to care for them, to shout their story, and then step out of the spotlight? You do not have the power to change racism and heal all the wounds by saying the right thing at the right time or by showing up with a well-made sign. Your presence, your response, your FB post is not what is the biggest win at the end of the day. Are you ok with that?
- This is a war not a skirmish.
When you think you are the hero of the story, the hero comes in and does the great big heroic act and moves on to new daring feats and achievements. This one is more likely that you will do battle alongside your friends. They will feel beat down and just when it seems to be semblance of strength something happens again. That’s why this is not a hero story. This is a battle. For hearts and minds and against centuries of ingrained patterns and behaviors. Remember that so many have been fighting this long before you even recognized it was a battle. They feel tired and weary. If you fight alongside them and support them in the fight you will also get weary. Keep going. It matters. Keep caring, keep listening, keep speaking out.