One year ago… yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. Grief is an emotion that I had experienced from the sidelines, but never as “up close and personal” as I did last year. I thought I had a handle on how a person deals with grief until I had to come face-to-face with it on a daily basis.
For those who have never read this blog, my mom died unexpectedly in December, effectively altering Christmas forever. Then, when my dad died in February due to complications after a car accident before Thanksgiving, I tried to simply soldier through my days by adding grieving to the mix. I opted many times to withdraw from social activities, rather than work up the enthusiasm needed to participate with others. After a while, I came up with a few coping mechanisms that allowed me to slowly rejoin my daily life in a way that didn’t feel so hard. One of those coping mechanisms was to spend time reconnecting with people who were important in my life. Those connections made this past year’s journey tolerable… manageable… acceptable.
I saw this wonderful message on Facebook recently:
I had my own notion of grief.
I thought it was the sad time
That followed the death of
Someone you love.
And you had to push through it
To get to the other side.
But I’m learning there is no other side.
There is no pushing through.
There is absorption.
And grief is not something you complete,
But rather, you endure.
Grief is not a task to finish
And move on,
But an element of yourself –
An alteration of your being.
A new way of seeing.
A new definition of self.
I’ve had a number of friends who have recently had similar losses in their own lives and this “new way of seeing” has taught me a few unexpected lessons about how to address grief with others. These lessons are not novel or earth-shattering… they’re simple and harken back to the days of our parents…
If you have an address, send a card. It doesn’t matter if you knew your friend’s parent, it matters that you know your friend. Take a moment and send a card to say that you’re thinking of them. You won’t believe how many people don’t do this but it can mean so much. It’s the simple act of putting pen to paper… it doesn’t have to be wordy, it just needs to be done. I still have every condolence card that was sent to me after my mom and then my dad died last year. Those cards and notes are the tangible reminders that someone cared enough to take a moment and think about me as I faced that unimaginable grief. I’ve learned that an unexpected card, phone call, email, or text can remind you that you’re not alone.
In these days of email and texting, if the only address you have is electronic, take the time to send a message. It’s not the best, but it’s better than nothing. Comfort can come in such simple and unexpected gestures. Take the time and make that gesture.
If you are physically (and logistically) able, take the time to attend the funeral. Again, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person who died… it matters that you know your friend. Funerals, in my opinion, are for the living, since the loved one is no longer there. This is the ceremony that allows for closure to *begin*, not end. While many may argue that your friend won’t know you were there, I’ll always argue that your friend will know if you make the effort. You may not get more than a moment to talk with your friend, but the fact that you made the choice to *be* there will always be appreciated. Attending the funeral, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for you, will mean so much to your friend. Get dressed, sign the guest book, and be part of an ancient tradition.
I’ll never forget when my friend, N, lost her mother. My mom made the decision to attend her funeral service, even though they’d never met, because I lived too far away and wasn’t able to attend. N said it meant the world to her when she saw my mom there. I hadn’t realize how much it would mean until I had to go through that same situation. Staying and taking the time to say something to the family, even as simply as “I’m sorry for your loss” can mean so much.
Friendship is more than words… it’s being present with someone who is important to you. Never underestimate how much it will mean to your friends if you reach out, connect, and be accountable in their lives. A phone call, an email, a sympathy card, or even a text can remind a friend that they aren’t alone. I’m reminded of a verse in Matthew, Chapter 25 (at the end of verse 40): … “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”… doing for and connecting with others in this lifetime can be so simple, yet so very important.
Isn’t this connection, this kindness, what we’re all called to do, as human beings? Can’t we all use a little more kindness in our world?