I realize this post is not on a very “happy” topic, but it is important to talk about, because it helps us understand an important aspect to creating a happy home, which is to appreciate.
I can remember it like yesterday, sitting in the living room, happy to be visiting with my family, especially my grandparents. I can almost hear the laughing and the TV in the background.
My mother raised me with the help of my grandparents, my grandmother cooked while my grandpa drove me to school for many years. Eventually they both were unable to do those tasks because their bodies limited them. I can still taste my grandmother’s food and hear my grandpa’s voice asking me if I was ready to go to school. They are both gone now. In a few months time, I lost both of them. Actually, within a 5 month period, I not only lost my dear grandparents, but I also lost a beloved aunt, a co-worker who was also a client, a cousin and even a family dog. All of these deaths marked a period of change, nothing remained the same. There were many broken hearts, many tears, new homes and new routines. What I loved about the past would no longer be in the future. There were no longer birthdays and celebrations to look forward to with my loved ones, no more laughing or hugging. Oh, how I miss the hugs; how I miss them every day.
For a long time, and even a little now, I tried to avoid being back in my hometown because the change would be all too real. It’s easy to ignore the fact that your loved ones are gone, you can lie to yourself and pretend they are still living life back home. But they are not. And those feelings will eventually catch up to you.
Death is inevitable, but we act like it will never happen, or at least that it is light years away; as though we are all guaranteed to live to be one hundred. But we’re not. Even worse, is that when it does happen, we don’t know how to act around those who are experiencing the great loss. We have a “too bad for you” attitude, a “time will heal all wounds” kind of response. Now that I’ve personally been wounded by death, I regret how I responded to my friend who lost her grandparents in high school, or an acquaintance who lost her mother, even my husband who lost his sweet grandmother. The truth is, I didn’t know better. But, I wish I could have been more empathetic because I truly care for them, and because it hurts. Death cuts deeper than a break up with a friend, it stings your heart. Your heart literally hurts, for a very long time. They are gone. You can’t get them back, see them again, or even hope. You miss them like crazy and it leaves your cheeks stained with tears on your drive to work. Your routine may continue but your view of life is not the same.
But we know that death is inevitable. In the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon states “there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). “One generation passes away, and another generation comes” (1:4). To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…(3:1-4).
As much as we would love it to be, life is not all fun and games. We will hurt and cry and feel lost. This is reality. This is why we need to lean on God for strength and be there for someone who has lost a loved one.
I am not sure if mourning will ever end. It doesn’t seem like it will, it’s been two years since I lost my loved ones and I still hurt. But, it is true like they say. Time does heal; although it doesn’t mean you won’t miss them. I miss them every day.
What helps is having loved ones around you that know what you are going through, those that feel the same feelings. What is encouraging is having a friend who, although does not feel the same emotional pain that you are feeling, shows sincere empathy for the hurt you are experiencing.
It is painful when a loved one passes away, and it is harmful to not show empathy to someone who lost a loved one. You cannot use the excuse that you cannot empathize with someone because you cannot relate to them since you have not personally experienced death. You can imagine how painful it would be if…., so you are able to show empathy.
As a Christian, we are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. (Romans 12:15) Sadly, when the pain of losing my beloved grandmother was all too recent, I attended a church bible study where I spent the majority of the service in a comfortable living room area at the back of the main room. Crying, I told someone of influence how I was feeling and got one of those “too bad for you” looks and no follow up phone call or e-mail to see how I was doing. That hurt me too because I felt even more lost and alone. Therefore, in order to spare others from missing an opportunity to truly love someone and show them empathy in their time of loss, I’ve made a list of 6 things you can do to to show empathy:
1. Be quiet, and be there and listen.
2. Hug, a lot, and for a long time.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing specifically about their situation. Ask them, and show them that you care.
4. Send them something to cheer them up; i.e. flowers, cards, coffee.
5. Do something practical for them; i.e. cook them a meal, babysit, buy groceries.
6. Let them know you love them and care about them and that you are there if they need a shoulder to cry on.
And remember: Do not avoid someone you know that lost a loved one because you don’t feel comfortable; it’s about them, focus on them.