I wrote this five months ago, published it as a status update three months ago. This week a friend asked me to send it to her and I realized it has never made it to StealingFaith. Hope it’s useful to you – five months post-event it still rings true to me.
My father passed away four days ago.
His passing was in many ways a relief, as now he is free to be in heaven, away from the decline that kept him confined to bed and unable to care for himself. We miss him desperately but are also at peace with the reality that death is an unavoidable companion to life.
The post-death days, however, are a little different. I tend to believe that there are as many ways of grieving as there are people. I, myself, have cycled through sadness, anger, laughter, joy, and tears many times over each day!
I have always had a fear of what to say to people who are going through the loss of a loved one.
I don’t want to say nothing, because obviously it’s a big deal. Yet I feel uncertain because I don’t want my words to cause pain to the survivor, I want to honor the life of the person who died.
It’s scary to me!
Now that I’m on this side of the death experience, I have a few ideas of what might help.
1. Acknowledge it. Death is uncomfortable. I know it’s awkward to you and it’s hard for me to talk about it, but at least say something. A stumbling comment is more appreciated than silence.
2. Don’t require a response from me. So many people I run into will say, “How are you doing?” in the kindest way possible. I want to answer them. But our non-thinking cultural response is, “Fine,” and that’s an outright lie. I’m not fine. I’m broken-hearted. So I scramble to find an appropriate response, which is a little like popping the lid on a soda can that’s just been dropped – you might get more than you bargained for coming out!
Another way to greet me might be, “I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I’d love to talk about him with you when you’d like.” Give me the freedom to break down with you or walk away still smiling and worried about my grocery list (or whatever I was doing when I ran into you). I truly appreciate that you care, but the feelings are too raw to open up to every casual acquaintance.
3. Tell your stories. I’m in a season of coveting every memory possible. If you have any memory of the one who passed, share it! Simple statements about my dad like, “He always smiled like he was genuinely happy to see me,” is like a healing ointment to my soul. It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, it can be an observation of their character, a physical characteristic, or work they completed while alive. I do love the stories, but I’ll take anything you give me with joy.
4. Let me tell you stories. I realize that right now I’m a broken record and I’ve got one thing on my mind, my father. I want to preserve him in my memory, to make sure there are still elements alive of him through the skill of remembrance. I need to tell memories, even if I’m crying through them. Be my listening ear, don’t be afraid of my tears, just sit with me for a spell.
5. Remind me it won’t always be like this. There will come a time when I don’t sting all over with loss. Gently, softly allow me to wallow in my grief now and then gently, softly, remind me it won’t always feel like this. Invite me to do things. Don’t be offended if I say no. I can’t tell you what I’m ready to do from one hour to the next right now! So please, Just keep inviting and when I do come out – rejoice with me!