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The Soft Touch of Sorrow
Last week, I attended the funeral for a beautiful 30-year-old girl who died suddenly in her sleep. As I sat in the church, watching friends, family and neighbors silently filter through the doors, I looked around at their grief-stricken faces and was overwhelmed by a powerful sense of unity in the crowd Although there were hundreds of people dressed in shades pouring into the pews, there was hardly a word. People smiled sweetly at each other, patted each other on the arm or back and waited patiently as they slipped into their seats. No one expressed impatience at having to wait. No one complained. No one raised their eyebrows or raised their voice. Grief had brought them together and they were all kind to strangers.
Mothers and fathers tightly held the hands of their daughters and sons as they looked at them tenderly. You could almost feel them thinking, “Could be you.” Couples sat next to each other, and elderly people hugged each other. There is nothing like a tragedy to bring out the best in people and I felt my heart warm as tenderness flowed through the church, embracing everyone with its tender touch.
He reminded me many times when I felt that way. September 11 – when the world came together to embrace this country and offer love and condolences for the tragedy. Hurricane Katrina, where people came together to provide everything they could to strangers who had lost everything. And, for me, my personal tragedies when I lost my sister 17 years ago and my husband almost ten years ago, and I also had the gentle touch of common pain. When bad things happen, everyone wants to help. Everyone offers what they can give. But people are often uncomfortable with death and confused about the right thing to do. While the intention is good and caring, there are also ways that people react that do not work and only serve to create a more difficult situation.
Based on my experiences, my primary advice is to act with kindness and consideration. Do not offer advice or make suggestions about what to do. The worst advice I’ve heard is to “keep busy” or “keep your mind occupied.” When you’ve lost someone you love, it’s always on your mind – from the second you wake up until the moment you go to sleep at night – and everyone has their own way of dealing with the pain. My therapy consisted of immersing myself in my pain – writing, reading, walking, driving, crying, remembering. The feelings are always there and, even if you “keep busy”, they come out later. For me, it was much better to face my feelings in the moment than to postpone the inevitable. On the other hand, I feel that I have honored my loved one by thinking of them and pain at that time.
After my sister’s death, my mother told me how she met people on the street who didn’t even recognize her in fear of “remembering” her. As she told me, it was not possible for her to forget even for a moment and it would be impossible to “remember” something that was a part of her being. It is much better, he advised, to express a word of pain or even to say “I don’t know what to say” than to ignore it completely. One of the moments that will always live in my heart is when I drove to a friend’s house after hearing about my sister’s death. Val opened his arms, held me close and cried with me. There were no words. And her gesture meant more to me than anything she could say.
And, after the death of my husband, the people who said “It’s so unfair” and “How could it be?” it meant worlds more than those saying “God works in mysterious ways” or “He is in a better place.” Even a minister at a church I used to attend said “You’ve been on a roller coaster” which I felt was terribly inappropriate and he never returned to his church.
Having experienced death many times and also being with people who have lost their loved ones, I want to share some of my suggestions on how to deal with the situation when it happens around you.
• Talk about the person who died. When someone dies, the family generally prefers to talk about their loved one rather than brush under the table. Do it on your daughter/mother/husband. Share stories about them if you have them. Refer to them in conversation.
• Don’t make small talk unless they do it first. When my husband died, I just wanted to talk about the big things – the afterlife, the service arrangements, the memories of his life… When a friend and his wife flew into town and insisted on taking I had lunch and a walk around the shops, I remember being stunned and amazed by his insensitivity to want to do any activity.
• Do small things to help. Offer to pick up the family at the airport if they are flying in for a service, go to their house and arrange sympathy flowers, put gas in their car, arrange flowers, leave meals, offer your bedroom reserve for the guest, provide a shoulder. when necessary.
• Do not tell them about your circumstances or the circumstances of others around you. Comments like “I remember when my aunt died” or “I know how you feel” are not comforting. Make it comfortable for them to talk and cry.
• Be kind and thoughtful. At a recent funeral for a little girl, one of her family friends commented, “At least they still have other kids.” Not an appropriate comment and certainly not meant to comfort.
• Get in touch. Make a phone call, send a card, deliver flowers. Every little thing counts and is remembered forever.
• Never start a sentence with “At least…”…”At least he lived a long life”…”At least he went quickly”…”At least I’m at peace now”… None of this matters . You just want your loved one back, no matter what the circumstance.
• Do not offer religious advice. Even a devout person can turn against religion when they lose someone they love and it can’t be comforting to say they are “in a better place”. Follow their guide. In the same way, don’t overlook anything they might hear or see during this time. I found great comfort in reading books about the afterlife and even started writing a book and interviewed the leaders of different religions to hear their thoughts on life after death.
• Do not look at them as if they are going to crush. Our friends who lost their daughter say that they constantly feel like people are watching them as if something visible is happening before their eyes, instead of seeing them as the same people they always were. been
• Include it in your invitations. Reach out to them and they will respond when they are ready. Too often, when a tragedy or a death occurs, people feel that it is better to “leave them alone” and neglect to invite them as they did in the past. Life goes on and it’s better to keep reaching out and being rejected than to forget them and let them mourn alone.
And, above all, remember that there is no time frame on pain. It could take a month, a year or a lifetime to heal and it’s important to keep reaching out and being there.
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