Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For the Bereaved

My friend's grandmother passed away two days ago.  As someone who has recently felt the devastating loss of losing my own grandmother, I wanted to extend to her my love and support.  Instead of sending it just to her, though, I am posting it here, as I know many of you have dealt with loss recently as well.

My Dear Friend,

The other night when Catherine called me to tell me that your grandmother was off the ventilator, but that the doctors were not very hopeful, I cried for you.  I literally looked to the heavens and asked God if I could just carry the weight of your pain because I know how much it hurts.  I wanted so much for you to not have to grieve, for you to not have to experience the intensity of losing someone who was so precious to you, for you to not have to know what life is like to live without one of the people who championed you the most.

But, as much as I so desperately want to soothe your pain, I cannot.  Instead, all I can offer you is my experience, my love, and my hope.

Society seems to have these unspoken rules about how long you can be sad and how many times you can outwardly process how much you miss someone.  I pray that you do not feel pressured to play by those rules.  Grief comes in waves and there is a certain amount of freedom that comes with just letting them crash over you, to let the sadness overcome you.  Keeping it in and trying to be brave only makes you hurt more.  You have friends that will let you cry your heart out.  Rely on us.  Tell us upfront that our job is not to make you feel better.  You show us what you need and we will follow.  The people that ask you how you are and then wait for the response and love you when you take fifteen minutes to explain how raw you are, those are the people that you need around you now -- people that have no expectations of you, people who will let you be who you are right in the moment.

The cliche phrases will not help.  People will tell you that at least she is in a better place, but in the beginning of grieving, all that matters to you is that she is not here.  You don't have to force yourself to be grateful for that.  At times, it will be comforting to you that she is no longer in pain and that she is in a better place.  At other times, you will just be mad that she had to be in pain in the first place.  Wherever you are, that is okay.  For me, it was better to be honest with myself and God, rather than hide behind all the things I "know."  They call it loss for a reason -- no matter what the circumstances were that surrounded her death, you still suffer from the hole left in your heart and it hurts.

You  may not have all the answers to the questions that your sweet children will have.  Hannah repeatedly asked me questions that I wasn't 100% sure about and I didn't want to mislead her, so there were times when I just said I don't know.  When she asked if Grannie could see her from heaven, I didn't tell her yes until I had done my own seeking.  The important thing for me with my children was for them to know that Grannie was with Jesus, that she was no longer sick, and that in Heaven, she was happy.  Those things I knew to be true and they brought a comfort to my children. That was enough for the moment.

Don't be afraid to do things that make you feel surrounded by her.   After she died, I put one of Grannie's shirts in a ziplock bag and put it on my closet shelf.  Even now, sometimes, I will pull it down, open the bag, and breathe deeply.  For me, the smell of her and her house always made me feel comfort and love.  Even now, I'll surround myself with pictures of her and look through her life, and just...remember.  Sometimes I cry and sometimes I don't, but I love keeping her memory close to me.

I firmly believe now, that the veil between this life and the next is very thin.  I have literally smelled my grandmother when I was out for a run.  She has visited in my dreams.  There have been times when I have seen her face in the expression of someone I was talking to.  Even though I cannot see her physical presence, even though I cannot pick up the phone and call her, I know that she hears me.  I routinely ask God to send her a message for me and tell my children they can do the same.

Know that she loved you, fully and completely.  Know that she knew you loved her, fully and completely.


  1. This is so beautiful. You will bring this person so much encouragement.

  2. Jen,
    This is so well-written. I know it will bring comfort.

    Off topic-I'd love for you to write a guest post on my blog on how you and your family came up with your selfless chart idea and how it's going. It is such a great idea, and I'm hoping you'd be willing to share the details. Let me know if you are interested, if not, don't worry about it!

  3. Every word you wrote is so true. I lost my Mom just 18 months ago and you are right on target with each word. Grieving comes in different forms for everyone. There is no right or wrong way, but praise the Lord, I have the assurance that I will one day be reunited with my precious Mom. Thanks for such a beautiful entry!

  4. So beautiful...my dad died in June...still so hard, but God brings the rainbows after the rain...

  5. Oh, wow. Really wow. You nailed it.

    I lost my father nine years ago and each thing you said is so true. I wish I had kept his smell in a Ziploc bag - very smart.

    Grief is such a funny thing - you are correct in that it is pretty much lifelong; however, the pain does eventually lessen and you are able to remember that person in joy and thankfulness - but it certainly does take some time to get there.

    Your friend will treasure these words - what a great friend you are!

    Natalie at Mommy on Fire

  6. Oh Jen.

    This is just beautifully written and my heart aches with the thoughts you wrote of. I have caught myself sometimes staring at my Memaw's photo wishing I could smell her. Touch her. A few weeks ago there was a lady standing behind me at a store and for just a second I thought it was my Memaw and almost had to stop myself from reaching out. At 3 months most days are still blurry and I hope that changes soon. But I do know grief is here to stay....for a while.

    Thank you for the reminder grief has no time limit and it changes as it goes on. I just adore your heart.

  7. What an awesome letter! You are so right in that society does place unspoken "rules" on how long is appropritate to grieve. I felt that when my dad died, and I have to say that there are still moments almost six years later that I just miss him so much! But no one wants to hear it. I have dealt with it, moved on, continue to live life as fully as I can, but gosh! Sometimes I just miss him.

  8. Wow! What a cool blog! Thanks so uch for stopping by iBlog! Otherwise, I wouldn't have know about you and I wouldn't be able to read about finding Heaven every day. :) mush love and blessings, cat (iblogmoore.blogspot.com)

  9. Jen, I had a very close relationship with my maternal grandmother and still miss her a ton, even though it's been 13 years since she passed away. What a blessing to read your insightful post and see you give "permission" to your friend to grieve and not be okay. Sometimes I think we try to gloss over loss, instead of really feeling it. It makes us uncomfortable when people grieve...so thanks for this. I look forward to reading more of your work in the HCB network. :)

  10. Visiting via Glenda and this post is poignant and full of truth. All my grandparent's are dead as well as Aunts, Uncles, cousins, friends, acquaintances...and Dave, my husband. I weathered all, save Dave, with the joy and certain knowledge they were in heaven, free from pain and we will be reunited one day. I know this to be true of Dave as well but the pain is different. It's raw, unrelenting, overwhelming and ugly in its intensity. Yes, God is with me, has carried me and is, with a tender and gentle hand, bringing me through to do the job He has for me, sans Dave.
    No one can tell anyone how long to grieve, how to grieve; it's different for each of us. It's been thirteen months and the pain is unrelenting.


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