When Someone Dies . . .

Don’t worry.   No one close to me has died recently.  At least, I don’t think they have.  *ponders*

This subject is an important one, because it affects all kinds of people – NTs and everybody else (I decided not to limit it to any titles, since I was sure that I’d inadvertently leave someone out for sure).  Ever hear someone talk about not knowing what to say to a person who is grieving the death of someone close to them?

I’m in a Grief and Bereavement class that meets for 3 hours every Tuesday evening.  Regardless to say, Tuesday evenings are not the most upbeat days of my week.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t learn a great deal during them.  But it’s like the kind of learning that wakes you up at 3:30 am with the thought, “Now what did she mean by that?”  It’s 6 am right now.  I’ve been up since 4 am.  You do the math.

Anyways, regarding the subject of not knowing what to say, my class this past Tuesday evening (i.e. last night) focused on that very topic.  My teacher said something that stuck with me; perhaps because she kept saying it over and over in different ways, possibly in an effort to make sure that we did not forget it.

The worst thing to experience while grieving is loneliness.  The absolute worst.  It’s not bad enough that you’re already surrounded by a wall of your own grief and shock and numbness, but then to have people avoid talking to you because of your feelings?   It’s a no win situation that can lead sometimes to people getting stuck in their grief, unable to move on.  Now, that’s not the only reason people get stuck, but it certainly doesn’t help any.  My teacher says that at the very least, you should ask whether or not they want to be alone or not.  Beyond that, it’s okay not to say anything and just be with the person in pain.  Suck it up.  Your discomfort is far outweighed by their pain, trust me.

And then, if you actually feel like saying something, she said something that’s pretty well commonsense, but something that doesn’t happen much regardless.  What you say has to be genuinely you, and it has to come from your heart.  Avoid the phrase, “I know exactly how you feel.”   ‘Cause you don’t.  You’re not them.  Even if you’ve experienced something similar, you’re still not them.  You haven’t lived their life.

As she said, the best gift that you can give them is yourself.  Offer, and then offer again later on.  People have gotten it into their heads that there is an average period of grief lasting around a year or so.  While some do continue to grieve in that period of time before seeming to move on somewhat, other people just take longer.  As those of you with developmental challenges, you of all people should know that there is no one set schedule of growth.

That said, she did say that there are a couple of areas that you want to avoid at all costs.  Once again, kind of common sense, but overlooked all the same.  When someone is grieving any kind of loss in general, but especially death, avoid discussing politics/spirituality.  This is not the time to try and convince someone that you are right and they are wrong.  Along with that, saying things like, “Don’t be sad; he’s finally at peace now,” are equally unhelpful, so says my  teacher, the internationally known grief expert.

Here’s my addition to this lesson . . . if you offer to be there for someone, don’t make the offer unless you mean it.

That is all.

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~ by lastcrazyhorn on March 4, 2009.

10 Responses to “When Someone Dies . . .”

  1. You are wise, LCH. I wish all of your loved ones a long, fruitful life. Any way, It’s good to read your words after a long bit. You know the best way to fall asleep? Have insomnia, and then work a sixteen hour day. 🙂

  2. Very wise indeed. I was in college when my mother died and at the wake people kept saying, “I’m sorry” so I would say, “That’s ok” which was quite awkward because they were trying to comfort me and I was inadvertently turning it upside down on them… Finally one of my friends took me aside and told me that when people said “I’m sorry” I should say “Thank you.” That worked MUCH better for everyone. It is a tough time when someone dies, it is good to give it consideration ahead of time–your thoughts are very helpful.

  3. Thanks LCH – I wouldn’t mind taking a class like that – I usually end up trying to make the grieving person laugh… but that IS me, so I guess it’s not all bad and it seems to give the person a little break before they get sucked in to the pain again.

  4. Practical help is always good. For instance, there’s a reason why people prepare food for the grieving folks. Grievers ain’t up to cooking, generally, but still need to eat. One can ask, “Is there any thing I can do for you?”

  5. My Mother just passed away on Feb 13th 2009, on my youngest sons birthday. He has been having such a hard time with this. We all are, its a feeling of a void, but yet haunting when she was alive and suffering. My Mother took care of my boys when I worked and grown very close to her, but my son Bryan is very emotional about this and seems to be very diffrent in his attitude, “What can I do?” I am suppose to be the strong one here, but it seems like every muscle in my body feels like a charle horse and I feel week and sick about all of this!

  6. I feel for you. I guess all you can do is be there for each other. Remember the good memories because that’s all there is left. I don’t know how old your son is but whatever age, everyone has different relationships and deals with them differently with the passing of someone close to them. Nothing you didn’t already know huh? Your son will look at the way you deal with all of this and by your actions, you will help him deal with that void. My brother passed away on the same day as your Mother. My brother was also my best friend. It’s the hardest thing I have ever went through. I always find humor in everything, and my brother would laugh along with me. There still is laughter, but it’s not as funny anymore. I got faith that he is in a better place and isn’t suffering anymore. My Father has deep sadness, frustration and anger. He bitched about everything before, but now it’s worse.He never has been the kind of man who handles stress or his emotions very good. My Mother is trying to stay busy, but is basically like a squirrel on crack who can’t focus. I have problems sleeping at night, cry uncontrollably at times by myself but have managed to draw strength from the way my brother lived his life while battling MS. Life is about living and learning, and death is a part of it.

  7. you know the feeling where someone so close to you in your family dies? it feels like they are still there…even if they promised they would always be there for you. death can not be slowed down i guess. its just your so close to them that you wanna go with them you know? and its like you would give your whole world just to be with them forever. i was so close to my grandfather but now hes gone and its like “o how i wish God had taken us both together” but the weird thing it that i feel like hes still here with me and i get real happy until i face reality and remember that its just my mind wanting him to still be here with me….do you know a quote or a poem that correctly explains what i just shared with you??

  8. On of my best friends I grew up with lost her husband in a very tragic accident. She also was the one to find him. When I heard he passed I began to cry…not for him but for her. I realized that she was now a single mom with no college education. She didn’t have a job to support her child and she was without her soul mate.

    I went to the funeral and we didn’t say a word. I walked over to her and hugged her and for a couple minutes we both cried in each others arms. I handed her mom a card with a check hoping to cover a utility bill or two. I left.

    I contacted her about two weeks later. After that we hung out faithfully once a week and talked. Our children played together and have bonded into a very close friendship.

    I understand that it takes some people longer than a year to overcome their lose. My friend is going on the 2nd anniversary of her husbands death and she still hasn’t moved on completely.

    I enjoyed your post.

  9. Two years ago today I lost my brother to complications with diabetis. He was not only my brother, but in many ways like a father to me and a best friend. He lived in TX and I in FL and he was my lifeline to home. He died on my daughter’s 22 birtday at noon on 19 Jan 09. Why? They were close. I miss him terribly. The day he died was so difficult because I couldn’t even tell my daughter Happy Birthday. I was at his side at the hospital all that morning and really didn’t realize it was her birthday. That evening my sisters bought my daughter a cake and I told them not to but they did anyways. I wanted to scream when they wanted to gather the family around the cake. I was so divided with emotions and I just wanted to yell to them that I had lost my best friend my brother my father. The horrendous gut pain I felt had to be put aside and not just me but the whole family put our grief aside with swoolen crying faces and sing happy birthday to our daughter. My husband told me I needed to do this for her. And here I am 2 years later doing it again. She told me she didn’t want to celebrate her birthday but I told her that is not what her uncle would want for her and that I had decided that I was going to celebrate his life and not the day he died. Yet in my heart it is difficult but I know that for her sake and mine, I need to move forward. So, I told her that on his birthday we would send off balloons with messages to honor his life. Well, if loosing him on my daughter’s birthday wasn’t enough almost 4 months later, my father died on the 4th of May and was buried on my birthday the same year on 7 May 2009. From October to April I was flying back and forth to TX. In April my father spoke to me on the phone and asked me to come home and support him and care for him and help to get better. Oh, how I felt like a failure because he died. I arrived long enough to become his primary care giver and I wish that on noone. He died of liver cancer. He was at stage 4. And the doctors not an ounce of compassion when they told him/us – that is another story. I hadn’t even grieved over my brother when my father died. I didn’t know who to grive for and I felt guilty if I didn’t grieve for them simultaneously. Then I thought How in the world do the families who loose multiple loved ones in accidents grieve. My brother was older than me and he called me all the time, my dad just was not the type to bother you – old school – your working, blah blah blah. My brother remembered me every holiday and was always checking on me, even moved to Fl with his new wife for a while and married here too. I miss him terribly and I miss my Dad tremendously. I’ve worked out the grieving part and I don’t feel guilty anymore, I just cry when I need to for whomever I need to at the time. I pray they are at peace with the Lord and at my Mom’s side. I hope to see them one day and in the mean time I will try to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Today I miss you bro, you are so speacial to me and I am glad I told you every time we hung up the pone. Thank you for letting me share. God Bless.

    • Veronica thats beautifully written thank you, I hope your grief is a little easier to bear now that time has passed, I have just lost my partner to stage 4 bladder cancer, and haven’t had to deal with this sort of grief before but you letter has helped in some way..

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