A close friend of mine lost her mom today. Her mom lived in another state and I regret that I never had the privilege of meeting her. She passed this morning and I wish I had been able to thank her for rearing such an amazing daughter who is my friend.
This has been a week of tremendous loss for many people. The flags are at half-staff everywhere and this is a constant reminder to us of the pain and grief that so many are experiencing. My heart aches for my dear friend, and it aches for those with family and friends who were hurt or killed at the music festival in Las Vegas.
We’ve all experienced loss. Many of us have lost close family members and dear friends. We’ve grieved the loss of people we love whether it be from death or some other kind of separation. We know what it feels like to be on the inside of grief. We know the searing pain and the gaping hole left in our lives when a dear loved one is suddenly gone.
Right after a loss, many people don’t know what to do or to say to help. And really, we don’t need to say much other than, “I’m here” or “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” or “I love you.” Simply showing that we care and acknowledging what people are going through is often what is most needed.
I remember after my brother died 11 years ago, friends came to my door. Sometimes they sat and had coffee with me whether we talked or not. They were a loving presence by my side.
One friend showed up with flowers and said, “I know you are going through a hard time…I just want you to know I’m thinking about you.” Other friends sent cards or brought food. It didn’t matter what they did, but rather that they showed their love and understood what a difficult time it was for me.
Later after some time had passed, I was so grateful to the friends who asked me about my brother and would then listen no matter how long it took. It’s very healing to look back through the window of time and talk about our loved ones who have passed. Sharing stories about them helps to keep the memory of them alive.
Something that still helps me all these years later, is that my niece, Jessica…my brother’s daughter…always remembers her dad on the important days. On my brother’s birthday last week, she took her own daughter…his granddaughter…with her to decorate his grave. She wants her to know about the grandfather she never met. Jessica sent me a picture because she knew I was thinking of him on his birthday too. We don’t forget those we love even when they are no longer physically with us.
I asked several friends who have lost people close to them, what they think helped them the most during the time right afterward. One friend who lost her sister said: “I’m not really sure except for the caring and love and hugs and the support from the church community around us. Talking about how special she was or telling funny stories and remembering memories of her helped too.” She continued by saying that her sister (who had been a teacher and a reading specialist) had a library named for her and it helped a lot to be able to honor her memory that way.
Another friend who lost his wife, said he remembered all the love and support from family and friends and from people at his church. They brought meals and invited him to dinner so he didn’t have to worry about mundane things like food for quite a while. Feeling the love and support from other people was what got him through that difficult time.
A friend who lost her adult daughter said it helped her so much when her daughter’s friends would call or write and keep in touch. It warmed her heart to receive pictures of her daughter that she hadn’t seen previously and it was especially poignant when her daughter’s friends would call her on her daughter’s birthday because they knew the day was still special.
When someone you know loses a family member or friend, you can be there for them and let them know you care. If you knew their loved one too, it’s really special to be able to share memories and stories. That’s what people will remember…it’s your presence and the love you show that is lasting.