Bode Miller and Grief

Watching the Olympic Super-G last night the commentators were focused on Bode Miller as the last few skiers bumped him from the Gold.

After the race, the interviewer quickly breezed by the Silver Medalist to Miller. She noticed some deep emotion and began to probe. Something significant was going on and she noticed. Kudos for that. She then asked questions and never let him answer. The moment and her questions were triggering something much deeper but his processing was cut short by more words. (Photo courtesy of USA Today, (NBC Screenshot))

Maybe Miller's emotion caught her off guard. Maybe the fact that he was speechless, overwhelmed by emotion and grief led her to nervously ask questions without giving him the chance to respond. Maybe the fact that her questions were also bad questions is a result of bad journalism or of the incredible discomfort that comes when someone is grieving right before your eyes, deeply emotional, speechless and on camera.

Whatever happened, the opportunity for a beautiful and healing moment was lost.

Whether the interviewer did or did not know what she was doing. Whether she was being insensitive or just nervously talking because she did not know what else to do, this interview is a great example of how not to care for someone grieving.

If we are honest with ourselves, we often do not know what to do when someone is grieving and if the grief comes at unexpectedly we are really caught off guard. What do we do? What do we say? Do we leave? Do we stay with them? How long? We are incredibly uncomfortable as we watch someone struggle and suffer before us and we have no clue what to do. So, here are a few helpful tips to consider before you're caught in an on-camera moment:

Silence. Do not fill their world with your words.

Quaker Parker Palmer says, "One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person's pain without trying to 'fix-it', to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery. Standing there, we feel useless and powerless … in an effort to avoid these feelings, I give advice, which sets me, not you, free."

It takes silence to get to the depths of what is happening in the heart. It takes silence and time to process. If the interviewer had given Miller a few more moments of silence, he may have moved one more step in healing and we would have all seen it. Watching his healing might have helped us in our own healing as well.

Presence. Be there. It is awkward for you to be there and say nothing or say only what is needed for the moment (Ephesians 4:29) yet it is often not as awkward for the person grieving. Really, you feel uncomfortable and during this time should it be about what you feel? Presence is incredibly healing, is just what they need, to know they are not alone in their pain. Get comfortable with awkwardness and who knows, maybe one day you will welcome it.

Freedom and Time. Allow them to grieve freely and give them time. Grief is not linear, it is not even cyclical. Grief is chaos and people need the freedom and time to grieve freely. Allow them to grieve how they need to. Sometimes that will be with a lot of questions, sometimes with a lot of emotion, sometimes with silence, sometimes with tears, sometimes with nothing and so on.  I love how Jesus allowed the sisters, Martha and Mary to freely grieve in John 11:17-37.

Prayer. Pray for peace, comfort and grace. Pray for others to come around them as needed. Pray for discernment of how to love them well. Appeal to God for them.

When someone is grieving, we often want to stop them from hurting. The desire to stop pain is virtuous. No more tears, no more pain in the world is what we all long for. It is what God has promised … in His time. In the meantime, we must wait. We must wait for the person grieving as they process, we must wait for God to heal in His time and we must choose to be a healing, loving and freeing presence to those grieving.