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  • Writer's pictureJulie Love

Letting Go, Holding On

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

From the Archive: November 2019

We often forget that the origin of Halloween is that it is the eve of November first, All Saints Day, the Day of the Dead. In many cultures, this is a time to reflect on the people we have lost. An opportunity to grieve. Validation that grief is something you never fully finish.

We don’t deal very well with grief in our culture. Sadness in general. Any negative feelings, really. It’s reflected in our response when someone is upset: time to cheer them up!

It’s hard, when someone you care about is in pain, grieving a loss. You want to help them, but you don’t know what to say. So you scramble and blurt out something, usually something aimed to make them feel better. This is usually not helpful. Don’t rush people to “get over it.” While no one likes being in pain, it makes sense that grief hurts. It would be rather creepy if it didn’t.

So, what to say? How about “I don’t know what to say.” That works. “I’m here for you” is also good. “I’m so sorry you’re in pain.” “I want to help you; would you like me to ____?” Don’t make them tell you what to do – offer something. It might be what they need. Or prompt them to suggest something else. If they just say no, let them know you’re still there for them, and periodically offer another specific gesture.

The main thing is showing them that you care, you value them, and you want to be there with them. They don’t have to do anything to be worth your time and attention. They don’t have to be a good “host” for you to stick around. If you’re both just sitting there in silence, that’s fine. Don’t get frustrated if there’s nothing you for you to do. Face it, you’re wishing you could magic the pain away, and there simply is nothing you can do to accomplish that. Don’t make them feel like they are failing you by still hurting.

Once you leave, check in on them occasionally. Offer again. Meet them wherever they’re at – if they want support, offer it. If they want distraction, distract. If they want to reminisce, do that.

As time passes, the pain fades. It is never gone, but it becomes mixed with the rest of life. Do not assume that mentioning the person they lost will harm your loved one. Yes, they might become sad when you remind them of their loss – but it is far more painful for them to spend the rest of their life feeling like no one else ever thinks of them. Take care to note the person’s birthday, and the anniversary of their death, and reach out on those days. Your friend is already thinking of them that day. They will appreciate knowing you are too.

Julie Love, Director

and daughter of Lynn Thomas Patrick

b. 3/11/26, d. 8/3/19

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