We can help those who have lost someone many different ways. Give them a hug and say, “I am with you, you are not alone.” The importance of being truly present in their lives cannot be overstated. They are reeling over their loss. Their thoughts many times are either jumbled or short-circuited. They often feel adrift even dreading the thought of another day or night without their loved one. That is where we come in as fellow travelers through this experience called life. When we offer to help them with something and they can’t think of a thing, challenge yourself to find something. When my son was killed one of my board members wanted to come over to the house and plant some spring flowers! Wow! That takes a special person to think of something like that. But do you know what? I have never forgotten his offer. It made such a loving impression on me. I have been on both sides of this life changing event called death, crossing over or passing on so many times. Let me offer a few hints. First, we have 2 ears and 1 mouth because we need to listen more than we need to speak. Too often, authentic listening seems both under-rated and under-utilized. I know it feels good to actually be able to perform a task for someone who is grieving. Taking some food over to them or running an errand makes us feel like we are doing something tangible to help them. However, when there isn’t anything specifically you can do at the moment, the real importance of what we can contribute comes shining through. You can call, stop by for a short visit, or send a card. Do anything you can think of to let the person know that, even if a few weeks or months have passed since their loss, you have not forgotten. Don’t worry about making them sad by bringing it up again. It is always with them and will be for at least a couple of years or maybe for the rest of their life. I read years ago that the average person expects the bereaved to move on with their lives within 2 to 4 weeks. Seriously? I can assure you that is not even close to reality for most of us. That’s why your listening presence is so very important. This act of reaching out is the most selfless act we can perform; the true art of listening is at the heart of it. Regardless of the length of time you have, even 5 or 10 minutes may just be the salve needed for their wounded heart at that moment.
I don’t know if our lives today are busier than they were in the last few decades. Working, raising a family, keeping the home fires burning have always been a full time job. Marriages, births, and deaths are events that just happen along our paths. Communication is faster and more efficient with technology at our fingertips, but is it as effective with the topic of loss? When you email a person to say that you are thinking of them, that’s nice. When you pick up the phone or send them a special card, that’s better than nice – it’s great. I know that there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. You meant to stop and see the person who is grieving, but time just escaped you today. Besides, you may say to yourself, what are you going to say to them? They seemed so depressed and stuck. Maybe you will stop by or drop them a note tomorrow. Will that tomorrow come?
By sharing a little of your time, even with your hectic life, you give the grieving person a boost of energy merely from your note, especially from your presence and most exceptionally when you just listen to them. Remember we are all energy. When you know of someone who is experiencing any kind of loss, give them the special gift of your time and energy by listening. After all, life is not remembered by the hours in the day, but the moments that caused our hearts to skip a beat and took our breath away. Together, we will make a difference in this world — one authentic person at a time.