I know it is difficult to know what to say especially to someone in our situation and although we have had so many friends, church members, neighbors and co-workers that have been so thoughtful and so kind – we have also been shocked and surprised that most of the time, the care and concern we have received has been from people we either barely knew or did not know at all and then equally surprised at so little care and concern from some of the people we would have thought of as those friends closest to us or those that have been a part of our lives for years.
I have had sweet and thoughtful cards, calls, texts and emails, gifts, meals and donations to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society -- from such surprise sources as: my retired mail carrier, a girl in a resource department on my job, my new boss, the real estate agent we purchased a house through several years ago, my ex-daughter in law (divorced over 20 years ago), a neighbor from 25 years ago, our receptionist at work, an ex-co-worker that left the company almost two years ago, a young man new to our company that I only worked with about two months, the lady that replaced me when I changed jobs, the receptionist from another company located on the same floor as ours, my daughter’s Sabbath School class (not the same church or denomination as me), my sister’s best friend, my sister’s pastors mother.
But sometimes those that you thought were your closest friends seem kind of freaked out and just don’t know what to say or how to act and so they simply avoid you. This is a time when your emotions are so raw and you are so overly sensitive that friendships can be forged through the simplest act of care and concern or forever broken for the lack of it.
You really need not say or do a lot – sometimes just showing up is more than enough. A hug and a simple “I’m so sorry” is perfect. I could never have imagined what a simple card in the mail could do to lift your spirits. There have literally been days when a simple card in the mail actually made the difference between life and death at that moment. You really may never realize what such a small gesture can mean to someone that is hurting. A quick phone call with “Hey I was thinking about you – is there anything you need?” They will likely say “No”, but ask anyway.
Also please know that we need to talk about it. We need to talk about or hear our loved one’s names. Please don’t come and try and distract us with talk about football or current events to avoid bringing our loved one up in conversation because you think it may make us sad – we are sad – there is no avoiding that. We have no desire to forget them or pretend it did not happen. We need to talk about it and it helps if you listen. And yes, we may cry. Bring chocolate and cry with us or just get us a tissue and tough it out.
The only difference between living through a profound loss and never having lived through one – is time. If you live long enough – you will experience great loss at some point. One thing I have learned is how important it is to be caring, compassionate and supportive to those experiencing great loss because it does matter.
I 'm sure I have been guilty of the same, though I hope not often and one thing for sure that has come from this – is that I will never again be that person that doesn’t know what to say so I say nothing.