Grief doesn’t really know how to behave itself in public.
It awkwardly dances around well-meaning questions and laughs nervously while glossing over giant wounds like they’re just tiny scrapes.
Take a risk and let your most tender places be seen?
And make everyone uncomfortable?
And leave massive “I don’t knows” hanging in the tense air?
If you let one tear fall, a tsunami of emotion is going to violently drown everyone looking at you—at least it seems. Better to smile and move on . . .
Sometimes grief is a beast that wails loudest behind closed doors. It’s safe there.
Safely tucked away from the questions, protected from assumptions and misunderstanding, we scream and punch and cry ‘til our souls shake.
But grief also longs for normalcy, you know. Any sliver of simple joy that reminds us we’re still here, we’re still breathing.
Maybe that girl is sobbing her guts out, letting all the mascara smear when no one’s watching, but she’s cannonballing into a lake of joy when she’s with her people. She’s probably not trying to live a lie or pretend her broken pieces are magically whole. She’s probably navigating the hard stuff as imperfectly as she knows how: aching when she feels safe, smiling from ear to ear when something—anything—feels normal again.
It might not be time for her to share the world-shattering details.
Trauma might’ve sent her body and emotions into an everything’s-okay kind of shock.
There could be pieces of her story you lack context to understand.
Grace, friends, grace.
Grace for the girl holding the pain while her story still unravels.
In the meantime, she can throw her head back and laugh. Because she’s human. Because her grief doesn’t cancel all of the good stuff—the joy that’s rescuing her, the hope that tells her surviving the grief is worth the fight.
Remind her what joy looks like. Be the friend who looks her in the eyes and says, “Your grief is safe here.” Make space for her to explore the heights of joy while she also plumbs the depths of grief.
She’ll never forget the people who patiently embraced the messiness of healing to be a safe place, arms outstretched, welcoming tears or giggles or anger or questions or doubts or silence.
Jesus opens His arms wide like that.
That was me this summer, hanging onto simple joy for dear life in a deep pit of disgusting and numbing grief. My people made space. I made a blueberry pie. I picked buckets of berries from rows of trees, I rolled floury dough speckled with butter, I baked this beauty ‘til it was flaky, and I was outrageously happy about it.
I was hurting, and I was happy.