Helping someone through their lossWe’ve recently seen tragedy in our neighborhood and it’s got me thinking, again, about sadness and loss and grief when a loved one dies. I’m guilty of jumping to conclusions when someone I know has to go through this, and in my mind I think — your spouse has died and your profound heartache will probably turn life upside down for a while. I forget that this experience is different for everyone.

You could have lost the love of your life and are devastated, almost paralyzed. But for all I know, you hated the son-of-a-bitch and are relieved he’s gone. You’d be more upset if your four-legged bestie died. Or maybe you’re happy that your wife isn’t suffering anymore. Everything depends on your relationship and the circumstances but, either way, adjustment to another way of living is in front of you.

We’ve had 2 deaths on my street in the past 2 months, and both were sudden and shocking to their families. Since I write a lot about getting through loss and grief, the impulse to help is strong. And I’ve learned through the years that it’s not complicated: no matter what your reaction to the death of a loved one is, sometimes all you need is a listening ear to get past the rough days. Just knowing someone is there IN CASE you need something is comforting.

Letting someone know you care about their loss is simple.

It’s tragic that friends sometimes fade away at these times because they don’t know what to say. It’s more common than you think. But there’s no mystery here, you can step up and say, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this. Is there anything I can do to help you?” Or simply, “How are you doing?” (Then, and this is the important part, shut up and listen) It’s helpful just to know you’re not alone. Even if you have family close by, they’re often going through their own sadness at what’s happened. Besides, you can often share things with a stranger that you can’t with family. My neighbors aren’t strangers, but both appreciated that I contacted them. Not with questions or lengthy condolences, just a message that I’m here. Having someone in your corner counts for a lot and a safety net is always a relief.

Luckily, I have some words of comfort at my fingertips: a little stack of my own book in the closet for times like these. When the timing is right, I can gift them both with Emerging. Really though, the bottom line is we all just want to know we matter.

Whether you like it or not, experiencing loss happens throughout life — through death or circumstances — so I’m going to put up snippets from my book every few months or so. Here’s Pg. 40 from Emerging from the Heartache of Loss!

♣ Knowing Someone Cares

“You can tell if someone really cares what you’re going through. They are watchful enough to know when to leave you alone and helpful enough to assure you that you’re not. Your lousy day can change with the smallest of gestures: someone asking how you’re doing and sticking around long enough to hear the truth and respond, the unhurried tone of a heartfelt comment, or the comfort of an arm around you. And all of us are grateful for coworkers who pick up the slack when our focus wanders.

An acquaintance, a workmate, even the stranger standing next to you in line might recognize your pain and offer an ear or at least a smile. Best of all is the friend who shows up unexpectedly with take-out and a patient ear. And when there’s no human in sight, a lick on the face from your best canine friend is love you count on.”

Everyone adjusts to loss in their own way. Circumstances are different for everyone and it takes as long as it takes — a week, a month, a year or five. Peace can take its own sweet time. Loss comes in many flavors, and I’ll be blogging about some of them periodically from now on. Divorce and its repercussions is huge. Stay tuned…

Weeded out this week: The fear of saying something wrong. I’m a people person and have discovered through a zillion interactions that saying something is most of the time better then saying nothing. Silence IS golden if you’re craving it, but there comes a time…