How to speak the language of grief

One of the things I love about the culture of blogging is that you get the chance to connect with similarly passionate people in relational way, sharing hearts and ideas across the world.  For me, Caleb Wilde is one of those people I am thankful to have come across.  He is passionate about his job as a funeral director and he lives it out as a uniquely needed mission.  Caleb’s mission has given him a perspective on death and the language of grief that we can greatly benefit from.  I can personally attest to the difference a good and compassionate funeral director can make in a terrible season.  I really hope that you are challenged by his evocative and honest post on the power of presence and authenticity as we seek to speak the language of grief well.

I highly suggest you check out his blog, follow him on twitter, or like his Facebook page to begin to connect yourself to his honest and helpful perspective on grief which he blends perfectly with a bit of dark humor


By Caleb Wilde 

You walk into a house full of fresh grief.  It’s fresh because the death just occurred.  Your best friend’s husband went out to the bar last night, drowned his hard day in hard drink and he never made it back home.  Fresh.  Because both you and your friend have never experienced death this close.

You open the door like you have so many times before, but this time the familiarity of the house is unexpected different, dark and lonely.  What once housed parties, life and love now houses something you’ve never known before.  Like a river, everything is in the same place it was when you last saw it, but this home has changed.

You see your friend’s children sitting on the sofa, staring into space.

You ask them, “Where’s your mom?”

And as you reach to hug them, they snap back to reality and whisper, “Upstairs.”

Each step brings you closer to what you know is only an apparition of your friend.  The nerves build.  Fear begins to build.  You repress it as you ready yourself to meet your closest friend who has all of a sudden become someone you may no longer know.

“Can I come in?” you ask.  No response.

You push open the cracked bedroom door and see the body of your friend collapsed on her bed, with used tissues surrounding her like a moat.

You tip-toe into the room, slowly sit down on the bed, and not sure if she’s awake or asleep, you reach for your friends shoulder and begin rubbing her back.  Her blood shot eyes open, look at you and then, they slowly look through you.

You fill the weird silence with an “It’s going to be alright”.

“It’s not”, she whispers.  “I’m alone with two kids and no job.”  Her voice suddenly raises as anger courses through her body, “Why the f*** would he do this to me?”

The curse word chides you into recognizing that you’ve not only misspoken, but you’ve spoken too soon, so you decide to wait in silence.  She starts to cry.  You respond to her tears with your own.  Even though you want to respond with words, you know this isn’t the time for words.  There’s no perfection words here.  There’s no perfect anything here.  And so you wait.

You stay.  Listen.  Silence.  You take her pain into your soul.  Hours pass.  She rises out of bed and makes the children dinner.

You’ve spoken, not with words or advice; not by trying to solve the problem; nor by placing a limit on your time.  You’ve taken the uncomfortable silence, allow the grace for tears, for brokenness; you’ve allowed yourself to sit in the unrest without trying to fix it.

With your presence.  With your love.  In your honest acknowledgement of real loss, you’ve spoken the language of grief.

Although the language of grief is usually spoken in love, presence and time, sometimes it’s spoken in words.  And when it is, here are five practical “do”s and “don’ts”

The “DON’T”S:

1.       At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2.       He is in a better place

3.       She brought this on herself

4.       There is a reason for everything

5.       Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

The “DO”S:

1.       I am so sorry for your loss.

2.       I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3.       I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4.       You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5.       My favorite memory of your loved one is…

  • Pingback: Guest Post at Leanne Penny’s blog: “How to Speak the Language of Death”()

    • Mike Belsito

      This post was so spot-on. I really appreciate both you (Leanne) and Caleb helping share your perspective on, as you put it, “The Language of Grief.”

      “Don’t #5” struck a chord with me. There’s many people in my life that I miss. For some reason, my Grandma’s passing, in particular, is one that I don’t think I’ll ever be “over.” I grew up with her living with my family — and even though she passed several years ago, the memories of her are still fresh in my memory…and I’m sure will be for years to come.

      Again, thank you.

      • leannepenny

        Thanks Mike! I am blessed to share my journey through grief in hopes that others don’t have to grieve without joy.