I have thought about writing a post like this for a while. Today just seemed like the right day. So, I am just going to pour through it.
Loss is hard. There is no prescription for how to deal with losing a close friend, relative, or significant other. If I had the right solution for how to heal hearts, it would be amazing. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to mend the hole that can be left in a broken heart. I’m told that time is the best healer, and it can at least dull the pain of the afflicted.
Last year was rough for our family. I’ve had a number of people say things like, “I wish I knew what to do to help.” “I don’t even know what to say.” It seems to be a common theme and it makes sense. We don’t like seeing each other in pain. We want to help make things better…but sometimes things can’t be a quick fix. Death is uncomfortable and we don’t know what to say…no words can fix things anyway, right?
What I thought I could maybe offer in this post is solely based on my experience. My experience going through loss and witnessing my close family members cope as well. Take it for what it is…one person’s viewpoint on how to help a friend who is experiencing a painful loss.
What to say.
Anything. You are right, there are no words you can say that can bring back loved ones. Yet, talking about the wonderful person that is no longer with us helps. It shows that you have not forgotten about him / her. I have heard people say things like, “I didn’t want to bring it up because you might not have been thinking about him right at that moment.” That made perfect sense to me, prior to what I have learned in the last year. Now I would say, there is always a portion of your mind thinking about him. Say what you want to say. Any words are better than no words. It shows you care.
What to do.
Immediately following, the generosity of friends with food, cards, and presence at services is touching and wonderful. I thank everyone who provided us with so much support. It is amazing how seeing someone at the visitation that you didn’t expect to see can move you to tears for a whole other reason. People are wonderful and caring. It is so touching to see the outreach of our community. If you think that you should attend visitation or a funeral, do it. Close family notices and it is so very appreciated that you care.
I have been astounded at the influence of Facebook in the support of family and friends during a time of loss. I used to think that the immediate family is always so busy and dealing with all sorts of things. While this is true, I was surprised to experience how much down time there is to just sit and think. Facebook helped fill that time. How awesome to log in and see an out-pouring of support. At any given moment, your comment that took you two minutes to write could show that you are thinking of them.
In the months that follow, include the person that is in pain. They are working through the loss in their own way. Knowing that they have your support as a friend today, tomorrow, and forever is so very wonderful. Don’t know what to say? That’s okay. Just be there. Be there to listen. Be there to offer a hug, a hand, or even a laugh. It’s okay to cry. It is hard for everyone. If you cry, it doesn’t hurt the person in pain any more than they were already hurting. Once again, it just shows you care and you loved him too. What a comforting feeling, actually. We are not alone and yet another person thought he/she was wonderful too.
Coping is such an individualized process. No two people experience the same thing. Be patient. The pain is real. People are learning to live life in a different way. Learning to live life without a son, a mother, a brother…someone important. There is a permanent line in time for that person. Before death. After death. Sometimes life has been completely been redefined. It is a coping process and a learning process. Learning to live life without someone. It can take a long time. It may never be the same. But, the world around us keeps moving, happening, and going forward. As time passes, don’t forget the “what to say” and the “what to do”. It still matters. There is no time limit on those first two areas. If you think of a wonderful memory of the person, say it. It is appreciated. Be there and don’t give up. They will be so thankful for your friendship that has been brought to new levels with the amazing support you have offered.