Seems like many people are afraid of death.
Death is guaranteed to us on the day we are born. Some get to live a full long life. Other times babies die, children, teens or young adults. We live in a world that has numerous diseases, accidents, suicides and such. It’s sad when people die much too young. We feel robbed, especially if the person was someone we cared about.
Being a widow, and granddaughter, sister, aunt, friend, and mother, I have experienced death in many situations. Each death was very unique. The fingerprint of life was different when my Grandparents passed. They were like parents to me. When my sister-friend died, that rocked my world and still does. When we buried two still born babies, it crumbled this momma’s heart. My husband died from an accident that lead to his sudden death at thirty-eight. Way too young he was. I was too young to be called a “widow”, and my children were too young to be fatherless.
Life is not fair.
But God is good. He is in full control of our lives and he knows every detail and what we need. With that said, I have always felt like I needed to help people understand how to react to death. We as a culture never talk much about death and dying. Yet we should. It’s not as difficult as we assume it to be. One kind gesture, a hug, a card, flowers, dinner, phone call can make a world of difference to someone who is walking the path of grief. (and not just the week of the death and funeral, the gestures should go forth for years)!
With that said, some incredibly hurtful (unintentionally spoken) comments are often made. Let me point out a few of them.
“You’ll be fine”, to the person who’s heart is ACHING; their world has just be turned upside down, this comment would NOT be a kind gesture. They are NOT fine. They may not be fine for months and years to come.
“God is in control”, We know that He is. But this comment is not comforting to someone who has just buried a loved one. We know the day we are born, we WILL die. We know that God has each day numbered, it is no surprise to Him when we pass on. As well meant as it is, it’s painful. Please just simply hold the persons hand, or give them a hug. Saying this can simply pierce their heart – even to the best Christian who walks a fine line.
(*to a widow) “You can get married again“. UGGGGGGH…!!!!! WHY would a person say this to someone who has just buried their spouse?????? This so incredibly disrespectful to the couple, and to the deceased and to the widow. The person that died is IRREPLACEABLE! No!!! marriage is NOT something a widow wants to think about as he or she is grieving the spouse that passed on. It devalues their relationship, it’s borderline rude and thoughtless! You can say how much you will miss the person who died. Or offer a compliment at what a wonderful couple they were. Offer support by calling the person, or asking what you can do to help over the course of the next few MONTHS and YEARS. Oy vey, please do NOT suggest the person can remarry again. Let the person decide that much later, after the process of grief is lessoned.
(to someone who has miscarried, had a stillborn, or cannot GET pregnant): do not suggest they get pregnant again. DO NOT suggest they can adopt or foster, or this must be God’s plan for them to be childless. And NEVER assume it was some sin that made the baby die (or even to those who have a hard time getting pregnant). Don’t assume you know what God is doing. This too is heartless and a borderline mean thing to say to someone and devalues the parents, making the grief deeper.
The key is, allow the person to GRIEVE. The minimum time is a year to walk through each holiday, birthday, anniversary and holiday without the person who died. Each persons grief is like a fingerprint, unique, different and depends on the relationship, and how long the relationship has lasted.
The deeper we love, the deeper the grief.
Each person has to WALK the path of grief, which looks different for everybody. NEVER assume you know what is best for that person. Ask first. Communicate. Open the lines of heart felt talking – this is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes the simple gesture is to just be quiet and sit with the person. (now, THAT is a test of our strength, to be still, be quiet, and know that God is with us during these times).
This is one of the most important subjects we NEED to talk about in life. It IS a part of life, whether we like it or not. It’s tough. It’s exhausting at times. It’s sad. We don’t like seeing people crying and in distress. But tears do need to flow. Joy comes in the morning. Jesus IS with us when we lean on him.
I hope this small list helps to make the undaunting task of what to say (or not to say) helpful. It’s so important to BE there for the living. Respect the deceased, keep their memory alive, and watch for ques on what to say to the family that is alive and trying to find their new normal.