As I write this, there have been many recent high profile deaths in the news. In such places as Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Dallas, Paris, and Nice, hundreds have been killed in escalating climates. We see a few memorials on the news, but most of the talk is about who is to blame. Across social media people pontificate about the causes and solutions but make little actual effort to make things better. While all of the chatter continues, families and friends of the ones who were lost are grieving. They will get lots of help, and media attention on the days before and the day of the funeral, but when they go home their lives are forever changed. For the rest of their lives their loved ones will be part of a news story forever linked with this era, but it will not bring them back. If you know any of these people, they need you for the days and years to come. Most who read this will not know any of these grieving people, but you do know someone else who has had a recent loss. Reach out to them.
Hearing of someone else losing a loved one can bring back the pain of their own loss. This is not to say they will never be happy again, but part of their happiness is gone forever. More than ever they need to know that people around them care. Because of the ease of communication in our time it takes little effort to send a text, email, Facebook comment or inbox, Instagram DM, Snapchat–the list is endless. This is a nice reminder that someone out there is thinking about you but they need much more than that. It is all too easy for a grieving person to stay in the cocoon of their home and read messages and marinate in their pain. They need more than messages or even phone calls. They need the touch of interaction with someone who cares.
In the beginning invite them to dinner, coffee, or for a walk. Allow them to talk without judgement. Resist the desire to tell them how to feel. That just makes them hurt more. Just listen, even if you don’t agree with everything they express. They just need to vent. If you put in the time they are more likely to allow you to help later. Invite them to do some things that will distract them, such as a movie, concert or party but don’t force it early on. When you do go out be sensitive to the fact that any of these things may bring memories which can bring sadness. Don’t get angry just let it be. It has to happen. Hurting people must go through the dark times before they can see the sunshine again. If you really care, travel closely with them through the full journey. A friend that will do that is a rare and cherished one. Helping one person around you might change the world.