Inside “The End”, Part 5

(Read Part 4 here)

One of the big things I noticed right away is that a lot of people treat you differently when they find out you’re losing your job. I was surprised at who reached out and who didn’t. Some people avoided me or unintentionally (?) said really hurtful and insensitive things. Some people who I have a lot of history with were eerily silent. That was crushing and confusing.

The people who reached out to me kind of surprised me, honestly. Most of them were people who I didn’t necessarily feel very close to. They gave me kind and honest words, hugs, texts, emails, cups of coffee, cards… I saw a new and beautiful side to these people – an angle that I hadn’t noticed before.

This piece of pain has caused me to go back to coworkers who lost their jobs before me and apologize for my silence. I wish I’d been one of the people who went to them with hugs, kind words, cards… but, it was so easy to allow busyness, fear, uncertainty to silence me.

I think there’s a gift in this pain. I hear people differently these days. I listen with a different understanding. I speak with a different understanding. Even though I’ve disliked the question, “What do you do for a living?” for a long time, I *really* dislike it now. That question leaves me in stunned silence – how do I answer that now? Instead of that question, I’m trying to ask a more open question, “How do you spend your days?” I also know more what it’s like to feel alone, angry, afraid, trusting God when I can’t see what’s ahead, confused, and the confidence-crushing reality of losing a job.

It’s awkward and messy business walking with people in pain. Grieving people can be prickly and hard to be around, so I also understand why some people “gave me space”. I’m learning more about the importance of extending grace and love to prickly, hurting people. I’m more willing to risk some awkwardness on my part – yes, I might accidentally say or do the wrong thing, but I want to show up for others. I’m grateful for that lesson in compassion.

In your times of grief, what has been the best thing another person did for you?

…read Part 6…

12 thoughts on “Inside “The End”, Part 5

  1. Fignew

    I recently left a church that I called family after 12 years due to unresolved conflict. I too was surprised at the lack of emails, texts and phone calls I received. I’ve been grieving this loss for a few months. It hurts. It saddens me to think that maybe I wasn’t a part of the family like I thought I was. During this time of grief the best thing my closest friend did for me was allow me to cry and speak my feelings and hurts. She’s kept in close contact with me. We have cried together, prayed together and held on to the hope we have in Christ together. She’s also corrected me in times of anger when I’ve wanted to lash out about how I was wronged.
    Your blog has been helpful to me. Thank you.

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  2. Sharon

    So much of what you say fits other circumstances as well. For me, the question “Are you married?” brings a similar recoiling effect. It seems like a normal, not difficult question, just like, “What do you do for a living?” What I struggle with is the feeling that I have to offer an explanation in order to “save face.” Otherwise, people may conclude things about me which could alter the state of the universe, right? 🙂 I appreciate your sensitivity in crafting a new question. I think it’s hard for any of us to know exactly how to respond to someone in pain. We learn as we experience pain ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we might not still respond in ways that are less than helpful to others. It’s never been exactly helpful to me for people to look at me with pity and say, “How are you doing?”–although I know their hearts were in the right place. More helpful has been a silent hug which can speak volumes. But I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all response, especially in person. Cards and notes can go a long way, because they can easily be revisited if we are so inclined. And they relieve some of the stress on the sender, as the mere gesture conveys caring even if there aren’t a lot of personal words added.

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    1. Great thoughts, Sharon! I agree… it was SO depleting to engage with someone who pitied me…
      Oh – and the other question that has always bothered me (but I *still* ask it at times! ugh!) is, “Do you have children?” I never know how to answer that without it being awkward. My answer is simply, “No.” But, that leaves some uncomfortable silence. Not my problem, I guess, but I’d love to come up with a follow-up statement of some kind to move on…

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  3. Karen

    A simple but supreme act of kindness in the midst of grief came through a childhood friend. My dad and I were exhausted, physically and emotionally, from the 24/7 care for my mom during her last weeks here on earth. An old friend called with a simple invitation, “Let me take you to lunch for your birthday.” Celebrate my day? My only thoughts for my birthday had been a desperate plea to God that my birth date wouldn’t be forever marked as the day of my mom’s passing. For several hours my friend gave the gift of laughter, light-hearted sharing & reminiscing, heart-felt questions and listening intently to the swirling emotions surrounding the impending “home-going” of my dear mom (who was also one of her “other moms” when we were kids), After 17 years, why does this simple offering from my friend still impact me as one of the greatest kindnesses I’ve received? I think because she didn’t come spouting answers (there weren’t any). She reached into my grief and exhaustion. She gave me the beautiful gift of respite and refreshing and especially normalcy. For a few precious moments, I was just another woman enjoying a girlfriend outing, not the exhausted daughter awaiting the inevitable. She trusted me with her own deep heartache of a wayward son, and I understood afresh that grief often hides behind the outward appearance. She gave me her presence and love and required nothing of me at a time when I was spent, tapped out from constant care-giving. I think I glimpsed, too, that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” that our season of grief and loss would eventually pass and I’d once again find “normalcy” (whatever that means!)

    Lori, thanks for your transparency as you walk out your new season. May you find purpose and blessing beyond your wildest dreams!

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  4. Judy

    How about “How many children do you have”? Assuming of course that I must have a child, suprisingly that question is still painful. We do have to be so aware that we don’t have a clue what is happening in most people lives, even one’s we think we know so well.

    I love longer hugs than we may be comfortable with. “i’m in your corner”,
    Things you do my dear friend! Thanks for being in my corner for the past 6 years!!

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  5. Milena

    To be honest when I get one of those questions, I retreat into humour – my answer is No job, No mortgage, no husband, no children… no problems. 😀
    People laugh and then we talk about other things. Humour is a great thing for subverting pity.

    For me, the practical help that friends have given has always been the thing that stands out for me – the ones who’ve brought meals, helped me write applications, listened to me stress about things without judgement.

    On the other side, people who’ve tried to tell me how to grieve, and what I should and shouldn’t do have set up barriers between me and them that while not destroying the friendship have destroyed the trust that I had in them. (I’m not talking about making a faux pas here, I’m talking about people who’ve tried to exert their wills on me repeatedly so that I would be less discomforting for them to be around).

    I think people (myself included) have a tendency to want to be comfortable more than they want to be good.

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  6. Grief is a very individual emotion – we all make our own “Tear Soup.” I have come to greatly appreciate the gift of “presence,” when someone simply shows up in the middle of my mess and gives me a hug or a frozen casserole. I try to remember when relating to grieving friends that I don’t have to “get it,” or have a plan for fixing it…I just need to communicate that I care about them and what they are going through. That’s what meant a lot to me when I was saying goodbye to both of my parents in less than 6 months time while also living life with my son who lives with autism. Most people don’t walk the same journey, but the friend with the lovely gift bag containing a bag of my favorite brand of potato chips blessed me more than she knew because I realized I wasn’t alone or forgotten. And neither are you, Lori. Thank you so much for telling your story. I appreciate your willingness to revisit the hard parts of this journey, for I find encouragement in the common threads we share. I hope that writing here has been a part of your own healing.

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  7. Pingback: Inside “The End”, Part 6 | Lori Neff

  8. Pingback: Inside “The End”, Part 4 – Lori Neff

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