My sweet girlfriend died. Suddenly. Without warning. She just up and left. And I, who am all too familiar with grief, taken by surprise, found myself saying to her husband, “What? What do you mean she’s gone! No!”
It was an honest response.
I’ve talked to him often since, and I’ve noticed how our conversations have changed over time.
Shock and disbelief
First, shock and disbelief. That What do you mean? reflected my confusion. I’d just talked to her two days before and it seemed she was getting better. I had no other words at first. Just…NO!
And as the week went on, I found myself simply being there for her husband. Holding space. Supportive words in his time of grief even as I tried to process mine.
I think that’s all someone who has lost a loved one really wants: a caring ear. Someone to hold space.
Holding space for others while grieving, ourselves
And even as we do that, we must recognize that we, ourselves can be grieving. I found myself sitting on the couch just shaking my head, asking myself, what had happened? Had she chosen this way to go with her decisions that week? Why would she choose to leave her soulmate, kids and grandkids. Her friends. Did it just happen? Did she suffer?
I dug deep for clues, for answers.
There were none.
Life happens and then it’s gone, in the blink of an eye. The reasons barely matter. We search long and hard for meaning but there is none. This is the nature of life. And death.
Rena and I had nothing in common and everything in common. That’s the thing with human beings, right? We might not look like a match on the surface but deep inside? Another story. In times of need she turned to me and I to her. She gave me the gift of seeing me. I mean really seeing me. And accepting me. That kind of sister-friend is rare, indeed.
What a void she leaves in my life!
I miss Rena’s huge laugh. Her throaty voice. That hominy grits Kentucky accent. I can hear it still. I will hear it all my life.
And so will the husband she left behind.
What to say now?
So what do you say to someone who is grieving? Who feels the loss keenly?
Most important: you listen. And then you could say:
“Tell me about her.”
“What was your favorite thing to do together?”
“What do you love most about her?”
If you’re afraid talking about her and the loss will remind her loved ones that she’s gone, well, don’t worry about that. They already know she’s gone and they WANT to talk about their memories of her.
I’ve had to cope with a number of losses these past two years and this one was tough because she was just too young to leave us. And I wasn’t prepared. As if we ever are.
As you might expect, I turned to my own grief tools to help me process my feelings. I love them and so do those who use them. They’re just so helpful. . If you’d like to see them, you’ll find them HERE.