February 4


Standing watch

By Jessica Allen

February 4, 2023

Tough week around here and I’m having to echo my own words back to myself. If you don’t know what to do when someone you love is hurting, simply breathe, stay present, and summon the courage to pray “give me the right words to say, or nothing at all, to be a blessing to my friend in this moment.”

The following was originally posted on Instagram @heartfullypresent on 10/18/22.


There are a million different right ways to grieve. But to anyone who’s not grieving, all those ways look wrong.

To the outsider, grief in any of its million iterations looks too long, too dark, too scary, too sad. Because GRIEF IS LONG, DARK, SCARY, and SAD. And it takes time. A lot of time.

Grieving is personal. Centuries ago, people tore their clothes and shaved their heads. They wore mourning clothes for years. They kept the body on a table feet first in the house for a week (ew). Now, people sit shiva. They keen and wail. They eat casserole and tell stories. They march in second line processionals. They post pictures of anniversaries and birthdays on Instagram. They get medicated. They get therapy. They break plates.

The job of the griever is to grieve. However long you need, in whatever way you need that a) honors the loss of your person and b) honors yourself (while still preserving your health in mind, body, and soul).

The job of the non-griever is to keep criticism, shoulds, and your own worried thoughts to yourself. Or to your own therapist. NOTHING is more discouraging to someone in grief than being told they’re doing it wrong.

What the grieved need to know is that they’re not alone, and that you’ll still be there when they come out of the black hole.

Things you can say to help:

I love you.

I’m here.

I’m so sorry you’re hurting.

I’m so sorry this happened.

It doesn’t feel like it now, but you’re going to make it.

I don’t know what to say but I just wanted you to know I care.

I am praying for you.

I left a cake on your porch.

It feels super uncomfortable to acknowledge someone’s pain yet not try to talk them out of it. It’d never work anyway, so you’re off the hook. We don’t have the power to fix heartache and loss. But we can be present with people while they’re walking through it. We can be strong enough to stay unshaken by the long, dark, scary, sad road they’re walking. Because to the grieving, that road seems a little less lonely when they know we’re standing watch.

HP, J ❤

Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

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