I have a distinct memory from when I was younger of my parents and grandparents reading the paper every morning. One of the most important sections to them was the Obituaries. It struck me as so odd to think that the obituary section was so important to them. I have thought about it fleetingly over the years always thinking that I would know I had truly reached old age when that section of the paper reached such importance.
The fact is, the older you are, the more people you know. As you grow older the likelihood that someone you know will have died the day before is huge because people leave us. It is an inevitability that we cannot escape.
It has been a difficult year and a half. We have had several really close friends battle cancer. We have seen people with Covid not recover. We have had several people die unexpectedly and others whose bodies just wore out. We have seen friends battle depression and disappointment that is crushing. In fact, we have seen people grieve. It is so hard to say good-bye. It is difficult to know what to say to those who mourn no matter what they are mourning. Most of the time it isn’t enough, because how can it be? Words don’t replace people and we all grieve and expect things from others so differently.
All I know is that the absence of others leaves holes in our lives.
Here is what I think I have learned:
- Reach out to one of your friends every day. Sure, you have those friends that you speak to every week and sometimes more often, but make sure you have a contact list of people you reach out to every month and find someone that you haven’t checked in on to send a card, call, or text. In our world of social media we really have no excuse not to drop a note and find out how a long lost friend might be doing. I must admit, I’m really terrible at this. I am not a person that naturally is aggressive at friendship. I surround myself with people who call me and ask me to do things instead of the other way around. So, if you feel rejected by me chances are I’m feeling the same rejection by you. (yeah, I know. I don’t seem like that person–I promise you–it’s the me nobody knows) I’m not good at knowing what to say to you in your pain. Don’t be like me, reach out anyway. Even if you call and just leave a message. The thought matters. The simple presence of people can help a grieving person carry the pain of loneliness.
- Depending on how much the person that died was in your life and how many plans for the future you had with them depends on the deep pain you will experience. You may not feel the same pain that each friend feels, but if you have even lost someone you know the same pain. Use your past experience to know how to reach out and comfort. What did you need?
- There is no moving on there is just moving forward. That’s okay. Your loved one will not be forgotten. And it’s okay to still feel grief years after death.
- Prayer works. I have no way to explain it. But I know that the prayer of other Christians has carried me through several times in my life. The Holy Spirit gives a peace that truly passes all understanding. It is unfathomable that I was able to function while my heart was breaking, but somehow God carried me through. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one back or maybe even two steps backwards with no forward movement at all. Here is the blessing…God isn’t any less present when I’m taking backwards steps than He is when I’m moving forward! Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
- Allow yourself to feel pain. There is healing in verbally processing your grief. There is relief in being able to cry. Don’t be ashamed of it or don’t try to hold it in. Take a walk and spend time talking to God. Call your friends and tell them you need them. Journal. Psalms 32, “When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up: all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said,’ I’ll come clean about my failures to God.’ Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched. God’s my island hideaway.”
- Share in their grief. I learned this year that a very good friend of mine never got a card I had sent. That only added to her grief as she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t have reached out. Your words matter. Carry the burden with them. Share any good words of true compassion that you can.
- Nothing can separate us from the love of God. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39, NIV Paul penned these words to the Christians in Rome encouraging us that although we will face trials and loneliness, we are not alone.
**In loving memory of Don Opperthauser who passed into God’s presence on August 24, 2021. “No more pain when we get to heaven.” I will never forget his faithfulness, musical abilities or his love for his family. Although I haven’t seen him in years his memory will live in my heart and in the hearts of many who knew him.
Are you lonely or grieving today? I’d love to talk to you. Drop me a note and let me know how I can pray for you. As always, please share your thoughts with me or share this blog with others.
Until next time.