Friday, February 26, 2016
Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Grief
Grief is defined as deep sorrow, it's also described by medicinenet.com as the normal process of reacting to loss. I laugh, as if there is something normative about loss. Other than the fact that we all experience, I've yet to see any two people react the same way or process in the same manner. Yes I know about the stages of grief, and they're out out there for us to check off in hopes that we'll see that we're making progress. But honestly, if grief is one thing it's unique.
Which speaks to why we see so many people on the internet blasting one another for saying things like "I know what you're going through." "I feel your pain" and "We all go through this." Screw that! This is MY grief, don't belittle it by trying to take me out of it, even for a second.
How does hospitality fit in with grief? We let people be real, without having to make fake connections. Being present, without saying a word. Sometimes showing up with cookies and your cleaning supplies is in order. Don't worry about saying the right thing, don't worry about saying anything at all.
As an introvert, I know that you're not likely to fall into the need of wanting to say something. Your problem is going to be that you feel the pain you see and will want to stay away. You're going to read it on their face and it's going to wrap it's icy fingers around your heart and squeeze with all its might. Sometimes, people need others around that are crying with them. You, introvert, will also be able to see things others don't. You'll notice when they need a break and be able to come along side them with a sappy movie. You'll carry their pain long after the funeral and estate is settled and will be sensitive to their loss. You'll walk the grief journey with them. You have the unique position of not being put off when they say for the 100th time that they just want to stay in. You totally get staying in.
Your awareness of others feelings will keep your mouth from saying the wrong thing nine times out of ten. But it might also keep you from saying the right thing. Occasionally, you'll have to break radio silence and ask yourself what's best for your friend. You'll be worried if your silly joke or memory will be appropriate, but if it's born from love, then chance it.
Now, what about this cookie and cleaning supply business? This doesn't necessarily need to be a close friend. But it does need to be one that is in need and you know where their bathroom is. It doesn't take long to clean a bathroom and it's one room in any house that could always use a touch up. If you are a good friend, then you might want to venture into kitchen or laundry. I haven't done any of these by the way. This thought has been born out of our miscarriages. I would have loved nothing more if someone could have come in the days after our loss and cleaned our bathroom. Every time I went in there, all I saw was me on the floor praying, life pouring out of my body. My grief would have covered any shame from having a stranger clean such a private part of our home. It hurt to clean that space, it still does sometimes.
Grief isn't linear. We don't ever just get done with it. Our job in regards to hospitality is to allow people to grieve. Accept how they change and to give them a safe place to land on occasion.