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A few days after my first son was born I had terrible abdominal pain. His labor had been induced, complete with epidural, so this pain was quite literally the worst physical pain I’d ever experienced in my life. On top of that, our baby boy was in the newborn intensive care unit with major health issues threatening his life. I was undone. Between the physical pain and the emotional pain, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t hear. As the pain physical pain intensified, I ran to the bathroom to throw up, but once I got there, I quickly laid down on the cold tile for fear I was going to faint. I was inconsolable.

My husband helped me over to our bed and lay beside me. For an hour he simply laid beside me and softly rubbed my arm, while I cried and moaned. His hand on my arm and that soothing touch felt like my only connection to sanity. I focused all of my attention on his soothing touch. At some point I drifted off to sleep and woke in the morning feeling exhausted but free from physical pain.

That was over ten years ago. And I often go back to that vivid memory when I’m sitting with someone who is experiencing excruciating pain. There are no words to make it better. There is no easy answer that will make the situation better. Dare I say it? There is no verse that will take away the sting. I remind myself how much I needed to feel someone by my side when I experienced that terrible pain years earlier. And in those moments, I know, all that is required of me is to be there. To sit beside my friend and just be. To listen. To cry with her. To hold her while she hurts and to be willing to journey though the pain with her.

Sometimes journeying together is done quietly. It’s a steady, unwavering love. A willingness to enter into the darkest places and simply stay by someone’s side.¬†

Can you think of a time when you needed a friend or when a friend sat with you. Perhaps nothing was said, you simply grieved together?

Won’t you share in the comments so we can take courage in one another?

 

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  1. 1

    Your candidness is just awe-some for me this morning. I lost my grandmother two weeks ago and am studying abroad right now, so I’ll have to wait months before I can be held by the people I need today…

  2. 6

    I really like the idea of journeying together. I can think of several instances when a friend sat by my side just to listen or just be there, through my eating disorder recovery and through infertility. Sometimes words aren’t needed, just a friendly face that says “I’m here and I care.”

  3. 8

    My friend lost her 17 year old son in September. Ben was a Godly, remarkable young man. More than a thousand people flowed through the receiving line at his viewing and dozens gave testimonies of him during the funeral. When life got quiet for his family, I prayed God would show me how to minister to his mother, my dear friend. I’d never experienced the loss of a child, and although I mourn Ben, without that experience, I felt lost, like a child in the dark. God’s always given me His word and my testimony to minister to women, and I was frustrated with only being able to hold her hand or hug her as she grieves…that I had no inspirational words to take away her profound grief. Then I read your post. I heard Him whisper that it’s ok, that the extraordinary is done in the ordinary and to continue being of few words and hold her close. Thank you for your reminder, and being a vessel.

  4. 10

    If I shared what others said to me during the four months my son was in a coma, no one would believe me. Nine years later, with my son now healed but only partially so, I can smile, as I still shake my head and roll my eyes at the comments that were made. I know people weren’t trying to be cruel. They felt helpless and desperate in the excruciating pain and their mouths just took over. But what I remember mostly now about those people, is that they came. And I’m thankful they did. Others, who didn’t know what to say, and wouldn’t risk saying the wrong thing, stayed away. And they stayed away for a long time. And that hurt much more. So always go. But go quietly and gently.

    • 11

      It’s crazy, what people say…but helping people grieve is an awkward business, isn’t it? I peeked at your blog, and am so sorry that you had to go through a TBI with your son – that’s awful. It’s wonderful that he’s experiencing recovery.

      “So always go. But go quietly and gently” – this is wise. Thank you.

    • 12

      “So always go. But go quietly and gently.” – wise words here

    • 13

      Oh Lisa, this piece and these tender, wise, beautiful comments have my eyes brimming over this morning…

    • 14

      “Always go. But go quietly and gently” wise, wise words. I love them.

    • 15

      I remember things people said as well. Words can would-even well intentioned words. I love phrase–go quietly and gently. Thank you Cheri.

  5. 16

    Thank you for sharing. I agree with you totally because when in great pain, emotional , especially just having someone listen and be there and hold you is healing in a way in of itself. Blessings.

  6. 17

    When I am hurting, the last thing I want is to tell the story and answer questions. I just want someone to sit and hold my hand and breathe very quietly. Until I let go. Silent presence is a true gift.

  7. 20

    Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability; for acknowledging that sometimes no-one has words to help – not even words in Scripture. I too know that and have been there: after seeing my 90 year old mother knocked over and run over (literally) and swept away by an out-of-control car. Hanging on to the Lord by – not even fingertips plural, just one fingertip. Or that is how it has felt. Many words spoken by others, meaning to be helpful, were agonising and sometimes seemed banal and made it worse. Nor did I/do I appreciate hugs – they felt to be rubbing raw a wide open wound. But now, after 2 years later, I am emerging from the long dark tunnel and learning to live with the ‘new normal’ and am hoping to help others – by writing a daily devotional for the first year of bereavement. http://www.grace2help.com has several weeks’ worth written up. I hope to finish it by mid December and would welcome feedback and to know whether and how it is helping others.
    Thank you again for your beautiful piece of written grief and survival.
    Penelope

    • 21

      Thank you for sharing your journey Penelope. xo

    • 22
      Beth Williams says:

      Praying for peace–His perfect peace to envelope you and your family. I know no words can take away or even ease the pain of such a tragedy. Just know you and your family are being held up to God almighty!

  8. 23

    Thank you for your words Lisa, they are so needed.
    Physical pain – For me, I remember the people that came, and sat by my bedside, who held my hand, rubbed my feet, painted my nails, mostly in silence, just being with me, whilst I drifted in and out of sleep. They eased the pain simply by their presence.
    Emotional Pain – I remember those who gave me permission to feel what I was feeling, who told me it was ok to be a mess, who held me for as long as I needed – whilst I wept, or whilst I sat dry-eyed, numb to the core; either way the held me, knowing an absence of tears was not an absence of pain.

  9. 25

    When I learned of my husband’s infidelity, a friend just sat with me for a weekend. She made sure my children were fed and happy, the house was functioning and I was able to just sit, process, grieve and cry as needed. She had been in my shoes and was willing to walk that path again.

  10. 27

    Many years ago, I was a very young mother of two toddlers going through a divorce. I was working full time to pay for my mortgage and car payments. No financial help from the father of the children. I got a call from my mom saying that my power had been shut off. I broke down. One of my coworkers simply wrapped her arms around me and let me sob. It was the most comforting feeling I had ever experienced. No one had ever done that simple gesture of kindness to me before. I could hear her murmuring prayers for me. I’ll never, ever forget it.

  11. 29

    I had two dear friends randomly show up on my porch on night with ice cream. They had no idea that I was struggling and had been in tears that evening. Listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and their companionship that evening was a true blessing.

  12. 31
    Jennifer says:

    Love this. Thank you so much. I have a very close, guy friend who is going thru a grieving process as he approaches the one-year anniversary of the death of his brother. He’s retreating to a dark hole, and I at times am unsure of how to be there for him. Something a friend said to me once was “Jenn, you are a good friend to him, you are very close to him and sometimes when we as humans hurt, we retreat. We back away from those closest to us, because those closest to us know us, inside and out, and they know the truth of what we’re feeling or going thru and that vulnerability is too vivid at times so we back away from those people.” That helped me a lot in how to deal with him. As well as this post! So thank you!

  13. 32

    When my daughter died people were round me talking but the words just didn’t sink in, I was so grateful for the friend who just sat beside me and held my hand. She didn’t tell me how to be or what I needed to o she just held my hand and silently said here I am.

    Two years later when I was at the hospice with my friend as she waited for her son to pass to The Lord I didn’t speak words just held her hand and silently prayed.

  14. 33

    My mom died in 2001, 7 months after my wedding. We were married in the spring. My husband’s aunt and an uncle passed away over the summer. His dad had cancer for several years and was in the hospital when my mom was diagnosed. 6 weeks later she passed away. We flew cross country to her funeral and got the call that his dad passed away. They died just two days apart. They were all Christians. We knew they were all in a much better place. It was still hard. At my mom’s funeral I found myself comforting other people. Telling them mom would have wanted it this way, not some extended drawn out battle. When my best friend got to my mom’s viewing, it was like the sea of people parted and she walked up and hugged me. I just folded into her embrace and for the first time I didn’t have to make it better. I could just cry and let it out. I will never forget that moment.

  15. 34

    Recently I had some health issues which led to anxiety. Many times just having my husband hold me and pray was enough to calm down and rest. Thank you for reminding me that often that’s all someone needs. Not words of advice, just the presence of someone who cares and who is praying.

  16. 35
    Katie Patrick says:

    When I was 24, I married my best friend. We’d met in college and had known each other for six years. Four months after our wedding, I found out my husband was gay. The next year was one of grieving the loss of my hero, hope in the next counselor or therapy, discouragement over repeated cycles, and final abandonment and annulment of our marriage. I remember in the months following his leaving, my younger brother stopping by and just letting me cry, scream, hit, kick and thrash at him. He stood there; he didn’t talk, taking it all, and after the spent emotion, he just hugged me and held me until peace for that moment came. God took me through a place of brokenness and healing, and I learned that it’s okay to not know what to say to others in those places. Our well-meaning words and yes, even quoted Scriptures, can sting and hurt worse at those deeply painful and open-wound times. I’ve learned to say “Dear Friend, I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t know what you need to hear. But my heart hurts for you and I am here for you.” Most of the time, THAT is just what is needed at that time.

  17. 36

    Your words resonated within me as I now understand how the actual presence of a loved one is so necessary when going through physical or emotional upheaval. Words can often be a substitute for the need of a gentle touch and a warm embrace or just the presence of someone who cares and prays silently for the suffering. Wonderful words of wisdom to remember when trying to comfort a hurting loved one.

  18. 37

    Beautiful post! My mother died a month ago. We knew it was coming and are blessed by the amount of time God gave us with her. Still, watching her in so much pain, and the day she went home to Jesus was tough, no matter how prepared I felt. I was blessed by dear friends who flew in and just held me, and I actually wanted to hear Scripture! But the biggest gift to me was: a book of stamps. Yes, someone enclosed a book of stamps in their condolence card for us to use as we wrote out thank you cards. At first I thought ok…but let me tell you, as I grieve I am reminded of those who stepped up to babysit, cook, clean, send flowers etc to us. As I write my thank yous my heart is lightened and I smile. God blesses those who mourn indeed! I have much to be thankful for. What a precious gift God is giving my heart from a book of stamps:)

  19. 38

    Beautiful post! My mother died a month ago. We knew it was coming and are blessed by the amount of time God gave us with her. Still, watching her in so much pain, and the day she went home to Jesus was tough, no matter how prepared I felt. I was blessed by dear friends who flew in and just held me, and I actually wanted to hear Scripture! But the biggest gift to me was: a book of stamps. Yes, someone enclosed a book of stamps in their condolence card for us to use as we wrote out thank you cards. At first I thought ok…but let me tell you, as I grieve I am reminded of those who stepped up to babysit, cook, clean, send flowers etc to us. As I write my thank you cards my heart is lightened and I smile. God blesses those who mourn indeed! I have much to be thankful for. What a precious gift God is giving my heart from a book of stamps:)

  20. 39

    I felt this exact thing after my son Jameson was diagnosed with autism and at the time I was also 6 months pregnant. Thank you for posting this.

  21. 40

    I lost my husband, quite suddenly, seven years ago. Nothing could make the pain stop, but the people who would just love me and cry with me and not try to rationalize anything, helped carry the grief. I didn’t need platitudes or reasons. I just needed to grieve and to know that it was okay to be sad for a season.

  22. 41

    I was grieving the loss of a very close friend. I was regretting not opening up more to him so that our relationship could have become more romantic. Losing him was so final how do you ever shake the regrets? A friend told me very sweetly that as the days go by all that will be left is the joy of knowing him. That was what I needed. Someone who felt what I felt and was wise to not give a clichè.

  23. 42
    Elizabeth says:

    I grieved the loss of having a “normal” child as I found at when my daughter was 6 months old that she was special needs. One of my friends directed me to your blog and even though you didn’t know…you’ve been apart of my journey.

    http://www.considerpurejoy.com

  24. 43

    I loss my fourth son to a tragic death four years ago. My best friend would come over to my home and sit with me day after day. I would “fall apart” over the phone, and she would quietly listen to the same story over and over again, just as if it was her first time. To this day, four years later, she still listens and cries with me. God has blessed my life with such a loving friend. I don’t know where I would be today, without all of her loving support, and act of silence- letting me cleanse my heart of pain and brokenness, over and over again…

    hoster777.blogspot.com

  25. 44

    I loss my fourth son to a tragic death four years ago. My best friend would come over to my home and sit with me day after day. I would “fall apart” over the phone, and she would quietly listen to the same story over and over again, just as if it was her first time. To this day, four years later, she still listens and cries with me. God has blessed my life with such a loving friend. I don’t know where I would be today, without all of her loving support, and act of silence- letting me cleanse my heart of pain and brokenness, over and over again…

  26. 46

    I see that many understand that common theme of just needed to be with someone in the pain and not try to make them feel better, which can end up sounding trite, or even hurtful. I think there is much to be learned in studying the book of Job. I also think that when I hurt the most deeply having a friend be with me is wonderful. Praying the Psalms helps me especially after studying and learning more about what King David is saying in them. It’s sort of like how a baby mimics other people’s words to learn a language. Praying the Psalms is like mimicking God’s words back to him and we learn from them. It makes me feel comfort when I do and just weep to the Lord. It is very good to know God as our comforter as well as so much more. Gods Peace, Grace, and Mercy to you.

  27. 47
    Twin Mom says:

    I had this just tonight with my 8-year-old daughter. I was trying to help her and her twin brother with their math homework, and she was getting very frustrated. She went from fine to complete break down in a matter of seconds. She started venting her frustrations with the math she’s not interested in doing and sometimes is too challenged by, but then it spilled over to her “terrible day”, where no one would play with her at recess, two boys repeatedly were poking and bugging her during chapel, two other girls were talking about her behind her back, she didn’t understand the instructions during class reading time and her teacher didn’t call on her when she tried to ask a question, and now she couldn’t play with her neighbor friend because she had three nights of homework to get done. At first I tried to talk her through and out of her frustration with these problems of the day, but combined with my own fatigue and stress of my day, was soon overwhelmed with the task–so we just sat and snuggled. She let out her tears, and was able to move on and finish her tasks for the night, and head off to bed in a mood that was hopeful for another day. Sometimes even the little ones also just need a listening ear and shoulder to cry on, just like us bigger ladies.

  28. 48
    SarahJane says:

    I moved to a new city to be near my boyfriend last year. We got engaged and planned a wedding and everything started falling apart. It’s now been 6 months since we broke up, but the pain of his emotional abuse carries forward. Although I haven’t lived here very long, some friends have been gracious to listen and pray – but they have their own established lives. It’s hard to be the one in pain and to know that I will be sitting entirely alone unless *I* pick up the phone to call someone. My heart’s prayer over the last several months has been that God would give me someone to just be there through this time. Not to preach at me, but to listen and to give me one of those long silent hugs when I just need to cry for a while. Still hoping that person shows up because it’s really lonely in the meantime…

  29. 49

    Hi Lisa, I was wondering if you could suggest jewelry for me to purchase– my brother and his wife are expecting conjoined twin girls Nov. 19. by c-section, it is not expected that they will live very long, I thought you might be able to suggest a meaningful piece from your collection. Thank you- I enjoy your blog so much. -Joi W

  30. 50

    I knew this was written by you, Lisa, after the first sentence. Your candidness always speaks right to me. This past year has been especially hard and I’m looking forward to being back in the states in 3 weeks to receive lots of love from those dearest. Heidi (Cambridge, UK)

  31. 51
    Beth Williams says:

    My mom’s passing was actually a blessing for me. She was ill with dementia, sundowner’s and totally bedridden for 2 years.

    This time it is dad. He’s having a hard time this year. It is 3rd anniversary of his beloved passing, got a skin cancer diagnosis and went into shut down mode. Turns out he has mild depression & now can’t seem to live alone anymore. It is soo hard to watch him deteoriate like this. He’s not eating much and I worry all the time. Prayerfully he will sign up for assisted living and get some better.

    My hubby is the greatest at just hugging me and snuggling next to me. Not saying anything–just letting me be me. He sees how hard this is on me. God sent me a wonderful man!

  32. 52
    Melissa says:

    Being a single mom, I really miss my girls as they are all living away. Long for the great hugs when they return home! Thanks for the blog, touch is important!

    Cheers!
    Melissa

  33. 53
    Carolyn Tidwell says:

    Having lost 2 grown sons several yrs. apart in separate incidents, I knew the deepest pain that you can face nearly in this lifetime. People came and went at such a frantic pace both times. Some said appropriate things, some said slightly inappropriate things, but I know that it is difficult to say anything coherent at such times so I appreciated all efforts. Sometimes it was just the silent hugs and rubbing of the shoulders that resonated most. And some said frankly, “I do not have any words except I love you and I am sorry” That was enough on many occasions. Also mutual tears , though it drained us both , were fine. Never be afraid to weep silently in showing your caring. Quietness is often underrated in our vocal society.