I drove alone to my friend’s home, the car unusually quiet without my chatty daughters in the back seat. “What will it be like when I get there?” I wondered to myself, pondering the tragic news this friend had received just the night before, trying to imagine all that she might be feeling. “What do I say? How do I support her?”
I wanted to be of help somehow, and yet I knew that nothing I could say would fix anything or make her current reality any less painful. “You don’t need to be afraid,” I reminded myself. “Just show up.”
Related: 4 Simple Truths to Offering Support to a Friend Enduring Loss
I thought back to my own experiences of miscarriage and stillbirth, about the friends and family members who hadn’t been afraid to come. I couldn’t remember much of what they’d said to me on those dark, awful days, but I remembered their faces, the meals, the flowers they’d carried, their hugs, and the tears in their eyes. Most of all, I remembered that they’d showed up. They weren’t afraid to walk into a house of grief and sit there for a while.
I remembered too what it felt like when friends didn’t show up; when they never mentioned my loss or asked about how I was processing it. I thought about the many times I’d failed as a friend, about how often my own worries about saying or doing the wrong thing had kept me away. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to show up and be that support.
So I knocked on my friend’s door and greeted her with a long hug. I listened to her process, and when she asked, I shared some of my own story. I am pretty certain I didn’t say anything profound, but I was there. And I was so glad to be there, grateful that I’d been allowed, for a short time, to share in a friend’s suffering.
Once, I was afraid of hospital rooms and funerals, of being near the sick and the dying, the broken and the grieving. I didn’t know what to do in those places, and to be honest, I didn’t want to be too close to the kinds of tragedy that brought me face to face with my own mortality. But now, having faced the death of two of my children, I no longer feel so afraid. My own painful experiences of loss have given me more courage to show up and support others who are grieving. And for that, I am very thankful.