My Sunday "Pearls of Wisdom" are typically insightful tidbits pertaining to
interior design, but today I want to share my thoughts on grief and how to help
a friend who is grieving. No one likes to discuss sad topics like death or grieving
but we all have to deal with loss as part of living.
Today, I attended a Memorial Service for my sweet friend Sondra's 24 year old son.
It was a beautiful service honoring his life. I sat there thinking about all the things
that ran through my head, when I was sitting in Sondra's seat at my son's service.
I thought about all those years of sitting at band concerts, ballgames and
church programs where we fought to have a front row seat to see our child.
This time we would gladly give up our front row seat to someone else. Why did
this happen to our child? It can't be possible, there must be a mistake.
I remember very little about my son't funeral. It was a blur. I was in shock.
Of all the things we hold dear in life our children are the most precious.
A child isn't suppose to die before his parents. It upsets the
rhythm of life. This is not suppose to happen.
When my son died in May 2009, I was paralyzed for almost three years. I couldn't
feel joy. I couldn't experience life. It felt unfair. He was gone at 22 and I was still here
at 50. I felt numb and unmotivated. Life was still moving on with everyone around me,
but I felt as though I was in a bubble disconnected from the world. It took me years
before I could be honest with my pain. I feel as though I am finally waking up and
getting back to into the game of life. I have a new found respect for what is
important, real and meaningful in life.
Once a child is born a parent dreams about who their children will become, who they will marry and what life
will hold for them. When the child dies before realizing any of these accomplishments dreams are dashed.
You are always left wondering what could have been.
It's true that grief isn't linear. It takes a really long time to walk through the valley of grief. The time and process varies with each person. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. We each have to deal with grief in our own terms. It's a long path because we grieve alone. So much of grieving happens within our minds and isn't shared. The pain is too great in a marriage to share the grief. When both parents are grieving, it is hard to comfort one another. It is often said that we grieve as deeply as we love, so the process can be extremely long for a parent.
When a child dies a parent's love for them doesn't end. We go from parenting the child to parenting the child's memory. It is part of the process of parenting. I remember the first time I was asked how many children I had after Walker's death. I wasn't prepared for that question and found myself at a loss of how to answer. I fumbled and stuttered and after a few minutes, I answered I have four children, three on Earth and one in Heaven.
Our desire to talk to our child, call their name and hug them is so great.
Just so you know, it is ok to talk about them to us. It keeps them alive
and removes "the elephant from the room". We feel good when we think others are
remembering our child especially if you have a child who was a friend.
My son was on my to do list on the day he died. He was 22, but still on my list of responsibilities for the day. There were so many times after he died, that i caught myself thinking wow, I have to call Walker to tell him such and such and then being hit with the cold reality that I couldn't call him. I kept his cell phone active for over a year after his accident because it was the last moving part related to him. I could call it and hear his voice. I admit I miss saying Walker's name. I miss hearing his laugh, I miss so many things. His favorite holiday was Halloween. If he were alive he would be deciding which costume he planned to wear for the holiday. Today really isn't about me and my grief though. I share my thoughts so you can see what the inside of grief looks like so you can help your friend or work through grief yourself.
Here are some thoughts I would like to share on Grief
The most important words you can say to a grieving parent is simply "I'm sorry". Offering to pray for them or with them. Tell them how much you love them or their child. If you have a sweet story or fond memory of their loved one share it! Those stories are music to their ears. Sweet memories are what get grieving parents through hard days.
The time around a funeral is busy, don't rush to do something for your friend or family member then, wait til after the service. The weeks later can be so lonely. Let your friend know you are there for them by writing a note, taking a meal, offering to run errands, take them to lunch or just sit with them and let them talk. Sometimes sitting with them and offering silent companionship is all they need.
Don't tell a grieving parent that their child is in a better place, it is not what we want to hear. Don't tell them you know how they feel if you really don't. Don't tell them not to be sad. It's their right to be sad and cry, it is important for them to release their sadness.
Moving through grief happens one step, one hour, one day at a time. It isn't something
that can be rushed. Allow your friend or family time to grieve.
Offer hope of eternity. The veil is very thin between Heaven and Earth. Our loved
ones are living more abundantly in Heaven than they ever could on Earth. There is no more pain, no more suffering,
just perfect peace.