Three Precious Words For Grievers & The People Supporting Them

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Yes. You can say you don’t know.

In fact, please be willing to admit that when it comes to the mysteries of life and death and grief there’s so much you don’t know!

  • Your beloved died suddenly and you don’t know know what to make of it.
  • You don’t know what death was like for them, whether it was peaceful or painful.
  • You don’t know what happens next for them. Where are they now?
  • You don’t know why this happened.
  • You don’t know what your future holds.
  • You don’t know if you’ll ever love or be happy again.
  • You don’t know how you’ll get through this.
  • You don’t know what you’re supposed to do to make the pain go away.
  • You don’t know who you are now, and what life decisions to make now.
  • You don’t know what this thing called life is all about.

You just don’t know. And that’s okay.

And you… the one who’s supporting a friend/ loved one/ client who’s grieving…

  • You don’t know what your grieving friend, loved one or client is going through.
  • You don’t know what to say or do in the face of their deep grief.
  • You don’t know if they’re going to “make it through” or how this loss and grief will change them forever.
  • You don’t know who they are now.
  • You don’t know how your relationship will survive the monumental ways that they’ll be changed.
  • You don’t know what to do to make the pain go away. Their’s or yours.
  • When they ask all their unanswerable questions about death and grief and the meaning of life, you don’t know.

You just don’t know and that’s okay.

So just admit it. Lean into it. Say, “I don’t know.”

Death and grief hits us all with a lot of questions. All the big, hard questions. Please don’t grab at the first easy answers offered to you in an attempt to ease the anxiety, to find ground in the groundlessness.

There’s no shame in not knowing.

The mystery is the truth. The certainty you had before was the illusion.

If you’re supporting a grieving person, please hear this: as much as they might seem to want answers, it can be incredibly painful and disheartening to have you slap them your easy, “Sunday-school” answers, or give them answers from another worldview that doesn’t resonate with theirs. Resist the temptation to impose your answers. Rest into the truth that really, when it comes to life and death and loss and grieving, there’s so much mystery still. Be humble about your ability to know the truth and trust your friend’s/ loved one’s/ client’s ability to discern their truth. Liberally admit that you don’t know, so that they can at least feel that they’re not stupid or alone in their not-knowing.

Because here’s the thing: if you can rest into the not-knowing, you’ll soon discover that it’s not the answers that matter. That you don’t need those illusions of certainty anymore. That you’re so much more free, agile and creative without them. And that what really matters is that you contemplate quality questions and that you do so in good company.

Would you like guidance to explore and heal your grief?

I’ve put together a 35-page grief “workbook” for you; an introduction to Remembering For Good and living wholeheartedly after loss. Learn more about the Remembering For Good grief workbook.

The first book in the QUESTIONS + ART AFTER LOSS series, Untangle Your Grief is a beautiful 65-page book of artful questions and creativity-sparking art prompts to help you to create meaning, belonging, and hope after loss.

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3 Responses to Three Precious Words For Grievers & The People Supporting Them
  1. alanasheeren
    February 12, 2012 | 8:32 pm

    Beautifully written. “I don’t know what to say” was one of the most comforting things I heard when Ben died and I find myself saying it often myself.

  2. HadleyRichardeEarabino
    March 5, 2012 | 12:02 pm

    Pursuing unanswerable questions in good company…what a great way to say it. I sent your ebook link to my 19 year old daughter, who just lost her best friend and soulmate to a freak drowning accident. Thank you for giving me the permission to say “I don’t know” 🙂 as a fellow MB coach, who often gets paid to have good insight, it helps to remember that. 

  3. Ms. Angel
    May 9, 2012 | 4:28 am

    Thanks it’s help me a lot. Can someone read and follow my blog? Hope to see you there.

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