The following letter was written by my friend, Bronwyn. With her permission, I re-post it here because she so poignantly articulates a struggle common to so many of us.
Before my mom passed away, people would ask me almost hourly, “How is your mom doing?”
After she died, my most-commonly-answered question became obsolete.
Instead, there was silence. People didn’t know what to say anymore.
I’ve found myself in the reverse role as well … that friend who just doesn’t know what to say. How awkward it is!
In the letter below, Bronwyn challenges us as friends to be honest about our inadequacies. She also challenges those who are hurting to be vocal about their needs — something that is hard to do, but a skill I find to be so helpful and even necessary.
The thing is, when you are hurting, the balm that will soothe you changes with the shadows from the sun. Sometimes you want to talk about it. Most times you just want to forget about it. At all times, either chocolate or ice cream (or both) will never make things worse. But our friends need to know that. They want to soothe, but they don’t know if it’s a ‘talking-day’ or an ‘eating-cherries-silently’ day, as Bronwyn so eloquently observes.
So be that friend who asks how you can help. And be that friend who expresses what you need.
I am writing to you because I know you’re hurting, and you know that I know you’re hurting, but every time I see you I feel like all I do is add awkwardness to the pain by saying nothing or mumbling one of those despised cliches. I’m so sorry. I so very much want to be a good friend to you through this, but I feel like a moose in a straight jacket: clumsy and clueless.
I have never been through what you’re going through, but even if I had I would not know exactly how you’re feeling. I want to honor your privacy, but at the same time I know that pain can be really lonely and so I want to be your friend through this… I just don’t know how.
Please teach me to be your friend through this. I don’t want to talk about the past if it reminds you of happier times and intensifies this present sadness. I don’t want to talk about the future if it makes you feel anxious. I don’t want to talk about me – I feel guilty sometimes for having it so easy while you are in the midst of the furnace. And of course, I don’t want to make you talk about you – this is consuming enough for you already. And yet we’ve always been able to talk. So educate me. Let me know if it’s a talking day, or an eating-cherries-silently-day. I’m all for animal conservation, but lets not have any elephants-in-the-room.
Let me know how I can pray for you, if I forget to ask.
Let me know if I can watch your kids, mail a parcel, or bring you a latte, if I forget to ask.
Because I love you and I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Whack me on the head if I turn into that awkward cliche-drooling friend again. I want to do better than that.
I’m with you and for you,
Re-published with permission from http://bronlea.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/letter-to-a-hurting-friend/