There seems to be a lot of death around me at the moment. A friend’s mum, a good family friend, another friend’s sister. It got me thinking about death and how it affects us and those we love.
The first time I remember being touched by death was when my grandfather died. I was nine and I remember how devastated my mum was. It changed our family forever – her youngest brother was only 15 and now an orphan and so he came to live with us. It was like I inherited a big brother overnight. I grew to love him and was devastated by his death when he was 29.
The next meaningful loss was my best friend when I was 18. My friend Wendy, died in a plane crash and I was so crushed by her death I cried myself to sleep every night for 6 weeks. Then I vowed never to cry or hurt that badly again and sadly achieved that goal for a good many years. How we handle our grief matters!
Over the years I have experienced the loss of many family and friends. An uncle, who was like a second dad to me; a brother brutally murdered in Zimbabwe; my dad; friends like my friend Sharon to name a few. Each has had different impact on my life – some hardly made a ripple and others more devastating. I have learned though that when you or someone you love experiences a loss, there aren’t always words, but of this I am sure, ignoring the person’s loss or avoiding mentioning their loved one is not the answer. The fact that someone takes the time to let you know they are thinking of you during this time means a lot. I treasured every text, Facebook message, card I received at the recent death of my dad. I have often felt inadequate in my response to those around me experiencing loss, but came to understand in a new way that even the simplest acknowledgement was enough to let me know people cared about my pain.
Sometimes it is enough just to be there – offering silent support or a pair of hands if that’s what is needed. I am not sure I would have survived my brother’s death or my dad’s without the love and support I received from those around me. One friend let me talk and talk about my brother even if i repeated myself. Hearing stories about my dad from people outside of the family reminded me what an amazing and interesting person he was. These were such gift for me and an important part of the grieving process.
I don’t see every death now as devastating – for some it is just a temporary separation because I believe I will see them again. I am thankful for the hope my faith gives me. I have learned to move through my grief and not get stuck in it. We all grieve in different ways, but it is a process we must go through.