This past weekend my husband and I met with a couple who have recently loss their son. I had met with them shortly after the death, but my husband had not, so he was apprehensive. Tony kept saying over and over, I don't know what to say, you're the one who is good at this. I smiled, thanked him for the vote of confidence, but reassured him that I was just as nervous as he was. As we spoke, prior to meeting with this couple, I simply reminded him of what we needed during those dark days after Rachel's death.
So what was it that we needed? At the darkest time in our grief, we wanted to know that there was hope, we wanted to see what grief looked like after this period; we wanted to know that we would somehow survive. We did not need or want lectures or long dissertations on grief and all it encompasses, we merely needed to know that someone understood our pain, that we were not alone, and that even though the pain may not ever completely go away, it will ease and subside. We also wanted to share our story, let the world know who are daughter was and still is to us. That too, is what most parents want, to let anyone who is willing to listen, know what this child represents in their life.
We also wanted to know that our child was okay. Was she happy? We believe in life after death, we believe that this life is simply a journey, and that we are 'spiritual beings having a human experience.' (Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) Because of this belief, we so longed to know that she was okay. Like us, this couple also longed for the same things. Was their son happy? Would he ever let them know? Did my husband and I ever have dreams with Rachel? We didn't have dreams right away about or with Rachel, but friends and family did. And as I look back at this, their dreams were shortly after Rachel's death, at time when I would not have been total aware or even open to dreams. Not because I couldn't handle it, but because my mind was so preoccupied with so many thoughts of 'what ifs' and 'how comes' that nothing else could squeeze it's way in. When I finally had a dream with Rachel, it came after resolving some issues that I had tried to bury after Rachel's death; and her message was simple, 'I'm right here mom, I have always been here.'
Ironically, those who did have dreams, were individuals who would not hesitate to share the dreams with us. These were people who knew we would be very much receptive to the dream and its message, even if it brought a tear or two. People who, in my case, Rachel knew would definitely let me know she was okay, and relay the message without hesitation. As we shared this with this family, you could sense their relief; they had been afraid that something was wrong with them, since they were unable to dream with their son; when others in the family had had dreams, and they hadn't.
When we arrived at their home, they were waiting, anxious to just sit a while with us. We walked in, said our hellos, shared hugs, and then they led us to their sons pictures. They had laid out his photos, news clippings, his turn-out gear (their son was a firefighter), and even his boots had a prominent place near this place of homage at the dining room table. So many pieces of their sons life laid out for the world to see, or at least anyone who took to time to stop by and visit for a while.
For those who have been down this road, you will fully understand the need to have a loved ones pictures, personal effects or any other items that meant something to our loved one, nearby. When Rachel died we kept her photos prominently displayed. It is that need to keep that connection between us and our loved ones. A belief that if by having the things that represented who they were in our midst, we are somehow closer to them. It allows us to touch the things they touched, smell their fragrance on their clothing, or think about the last time they held a particular object. For those of us who are grieving, it is our sanity, it is our comfort, it is a way of coping.
All we need to remember is that the most important thing we can do for someone else who is grieving, is to be present to them. To just sit with them, you don't have to worry about having the right words to say, or knowing what they need. You don't even need to know the answers, often there are none to be had, we just need to listen, hold their hand and just be there. So much can be accomplished even in the silence.
We each find our own path through our grief, we find our own ways of coping, but we also look to the strength of others, we draw on the courage they display, and hold on to the hope that we will again smile and laugh; that joy will be ours again, and that life will go on. Grief is a lonely dark place, but if we allow others in, we at least have a hand to hold on to, and lead us through the maze of grief, bringing us out into the light.
We are not alone, even if it seems that way, others have traveled the road before us, we only have to know that we need to ask for direction. Reach out to a family member, friend or others in your church or community that have been were you are. Seek out counseling, this allows you to share openly what you might not wish to share with those closest to you, and to express feelings in an unbiased setting. And always remember that there is love, love never fails, and even death cannot take it away.
Blessings! and until we meet again.
In Loving Memory of Eric Fernandes