One of my close friends lost her grandmother earlier this week. They were very close and created many wonderful memories together. Coincidentally, this past weekend another friend released her first book where she shared her journey after losing her 3 year old son in a terrible nursery school accident 23 years ago. The theme that played in my mind after hearing and observing these two situations back-to-back was that of grieving.
If you’ve read my book “It’s My Life and I Live Here: One Woman’s Story” you know that I know grief only TOO well. Last night I felt prompted to post some thoughts on social media on grief and allowing others to grieve. I’ve decided to share them here as well.
When we are close to someone who lost a loved one, our first instinct is to bombard them with phone calls, text messages, Facebook comments, Twitter feed comments, visits, food, cards, flowers, and the list goes on and on. Before you bring it on with bells and whistles, please take a moment and think about it before you do anything.
Immediately after the person has passed, the family members are typically in shock and deep sadness. Many may cry (as in shoulders shaking, hysterical cries), and others may just want to be secluded someplace without interruptions so they can think. In either instance, few want to be in a crowd of spectators saying a lot of words that CANNOT bring back their loved one. The words we say are typically meant to help, but let’s remember that this person played a significant role in their lives and they didn’t want to see them go.
There are a few things we must consider: Will they want to hear Scriptures RIGHT NOW? Listen to hymns of the Faith? Hear assurances that their loved one is in heaven? Do they need to hear that they’ll soon “get over it”? Do they want excessive hugs, lots of talking, and people hanging around all day and night?
These questions apply even to God-fearing preacher families. Sometimes quoting a Scripture sounds hollow and meaningless. Sometimes hearing the words of even a favorite hymn becomes irritating. The excessive hugs that last for 5 minutes may be too much right now. Give them SPACE to grieve.
Allow people to grieve in their own way, at their own pace. Not everyone can grieve in public, or with their homes filled with well-meaning visitors. Sometimes visitors must be there as they are part of the family that has lost the loved one. But some visitors are “extras” at this time. Sometimes just saying “I love you” or NOTHING at all, staying for a few minutes then leaving is all that the person truly needs. Then there are other times that company is welcomed, especially if the person lost a spouse and may now be faced with living alone as their new normal. Even if that is the case, be moderate and considerate. Don’t feel the need to fill every awkward pause or still moment with noise, talk or music. Sometimes quiet reflection and a chance to breathe is all they may truly need.
I remember when one of my childhood friends tragically lost his father. It was unexpected, and he was horrified by it. Because I had lost my mom just a few years before this happened to him, I was very sensitive to what he probably needed at that time. On the day of the viewing, I pushed myself to get dressed to visit the funeral home. It was tough to go since I had just recently visited one for my mom. I found him in the room standing in front of the casket just staring at his dad….. He had a hand in one pocket, and he tried to hold in the tears. I went over to him and stood right next to him. I said NOTHING. He then turned and laid his head on my shoulder and cried, and cried, and cried…..I stood there and waited for him to finish. After he composed himself, I left. I just wanted to be THERE for him, and that’s all he needed. If I were to ask him if he remembers, he would probably say no. Grief does that to you; you don’t recall half of what happened during that time of sorrow. But I know I made a difference without burdening him and that’s all that really mattered.
Please remember that when someone loses a dear loved one, they may never fully “get over it”. My mom has been gone for almost 25 years, and I am not fully over her being gone. She left at a very vulnerable time in my life; I was a teen. I remember standing by the edge of the graveside and dropping my last rose on top of her casket. I felt rooted to the spot where I stood. That was my best friend they just lowered into the ground! She was gone. I turned around to walk away and was almost suffocated by a woman’s bear hug. She meant well, but I didn’t need that then….. I just wanted to be alone in my thoughts at that time. Even today I do not visit the cemetery often. I can’t. My dad has to go with me, and then it’s a quick look, turn around and leave. It’s too much for me because all the memories come flooding back when I’m there. I remember everything all over again. I’m not fully over it, and I don’t think that day will ever come. I’ll always cherish the memories I shared with my mom.
And after the services end, and all the visitors are gone, and the calls stop coming and cards stop coming, will you still be there for your grieving friends? When they want to talk about what they remember about their loved one, will you try to change the subject or say they’re dwelling in the past? Sometimes people need professional help to move on, but understand that grieving takes time. Sometimes years. Even decades, sometimes…..
Make up your mind that when you’re faced with this scenario, you will promise just to BE THERE. Nothing else is needed, really. They just want to know that when they’re ready to talk or just to sit with someone that you’re ready too.