There are countless resources on how to mourn the loss of a loved one, how to cope with that gut wrenching emptiness, how to endure the horrific pain. But what about lost friendships and family members? How do we handle the disappointment brought on by others that follows a significant loss?
Grief changes and rearranges friendships. You never know who will be your rock and who will fade away. As I continue navigate my grief journey I find myself constantly rearranging my address book adding and deleting contacts. Death needs to stop being identified as taboo and the entire western world needs to do better when they encounter someone grieving a great love.
Let me be totally straight with anyone reading this article. It is ineffective to comfort someone drowning in grief with a Facebook post nor can you express your deepest condolences with a text message, or a mass text. This is even more accurate for someone you consider a friend or family. Sure it’s the thought that counts but death is very painful and confusing. Simply put when someone loses a person of significance they need human contact not a text message that took you less than 10 seconds to write.
The friends who express their deepest condolences via social media and text remind me of the people who respond to text messages with a “K.” What do you mean K??? Are you too busy to type out the entire word OKAY or even OK? Somebody just died, they took their last breath and will no longer walk the face of this earth and you are expressing deep condolences with a text message? In a world where technology is destroying the art of social interaction death is one of those occasions where it’s imperative that we go old school, pick up the phone and then send a condolence card to people we consider friends and family.
But at least you thought of your friend whose entire universe has just shattered. It is the thought that counts, and until you have experienced your own loss of a great love it is impossible to understand the tremendous pain and the endless tears that occur in an instant.
What about the friends who were too busy to reach out at all? No call, no text, no card and the funeral services were at a very inconvenient time. Or the ones whose significant other expressed condolences so they got off the hook and never put thought into reaching out to you as well. Or my personal favorites the ones who meant to express condolences, but life got in the way so they never did and when they saw you they avoided they the topic because death is really uncomfortable and such a downer.
What about THOSE people?
When you lose a person of significance, those of us that are left behind are learning to surf massive waves of grief. Grief is a gut wrenching painful experience. Grief is permanent. Grief is a prison sentence for the loved ones left behind. But grief is also a universal experience that sadly we will all participate in no matter how much we try to avoid it.
When a “friend” fails to acknowledge our loss it tells us that you don’t care enough about the friendship to acknowledge the pain. In my case it told me that some people simply did not respect the relationship enough to acknowledge that my father died. And when you fail to acknowledge that I lost a person of significance you become null and void in my life. With dollar stores all over the world you can buy a sympathy card for 99 cents, drop it in the mail and boom you’re a hero. But when you fail to acknowledge my pain then see me months later acting like nothing happened you’re inviting a giant pink elephant in the room wearing a tutu. And grief brings enough uncomfortable moments for me so please leave your big pink elephant at home.
When I lost my father I lost a tremendous piece of me. I lost a big piece of my childhood, and an even bigger piece of me. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him. Losing a parent is one of the most painful experiences in life, you carry that loss in a permanent hole in your heart. I will never forget the friends and family that stood and continue to stand by my side as I mourn the loss of my father. The friends that kept calling during my early days of grief and didn’t give up despite me being unable to speak because my grief left me speechless. The friends that sent me flowers just because way after the funeral. The friends who texted me while they were on vacation on the other side of the world. These people will always hold a special place in my heart.
But as I sit down and plan my wedding, one of the happiest days of my life, I also cannot forget the friends that were too busy, or the friends that were uncomfortable by my loss. If a friend cannot acknowledge a great loss, then there is no place for them for at a happy occasion.
You move on, but you never forget and the pain never goes away. You learn how to surf those massive waves of grief with the help of the friends and family who become your life vest.
I’ll admit prior to losing my father I probably could have done more for my friends when they lost loved ones. But I have always tried to be empathetic to others and acknowledge their milestones in life along with their pain. Before losing my Dad I too thought sending a deep condolence text was acceptable. I was wrong and I should have known better.
Grief is like a foreign country where you can only truly grasp the customs and language once you have lived there. Living in this foreign country allows you to get accustomed to living life in an extremely different and painful way, isolated without the one you love. Good friends are a Godsend in this new land, they are your beacon of light and hope from the lighthouse on the shore.
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