My grandma was a precious lady. Though she did not make a contribution to this world that will go down in history books, her value will always be present in my heart. It is easy to take our loved ones for granted – not just their presence, but their strength. By the time I came along, Granny Jones was a soft, cuddly, loving lady who seemingly lived to cook, clean, and give amazing bear hugs.
As I got older, I began to see her as more. She was a strong lady. As a child, she worked in a factory and had to help her parents around the house since they both worked outside the home. She was not able to enjoy a carefree existence.
When she was fourteen, she began writing letters to my granddaddy who was in World War II. He was friends with Granny’s brother, Arthur, and after Granddaddy saw a picture of her, he decided to start corresponding with her. Their love grew over the course of three years, and after the war ended he traveled to High Point, NC to see her. Five days later, they were married! With just a few days’ warning, my grandma uprooted her entire life and moved several hours away from the only home she had ever known. Either she had great emotional strength, was madly in love, or both! ~smile~
Forty-seven years later, she lost her love suddenly on a Monday afternoon. She recalled feeling like the Holy Spirit wrapped her in a cocoon and gave her supernatural peace during the entire ordeal. As the months passed, she dealt with some panic attacks and I am sure she wept night after night.
Granny, however, was a fortunate lady. Fortunate in that she had some extremely special friends who checked in on her constantly. And it was not one-sided! Granny checked in on people too. She prayed for anyone who called with a need. Friends stopped by unannounced – and that was fine because she was a super hospitable lady; and, if you were hungry when you got there, you were not hungry when you left!
It was a blessing to see my grandma receive so much comfort and love from her circle of friends. She lived another nineteen years after his passing, still talking about him until the end. I know the grace of God, her family’s care, and her special friends helped her make it through all those years without him.
She used to say, “Heather, I do not think I could get married again because I would compare my new husband to your granddaddy, and that would not be fair.”
After the shock has worn off and the deep grief subsides, your friend or loved one has a lifetime remaining. Here are a few ways to love on your friends and family long after their losses.
- Reminisce together. After times passes, some people find it comforting to talk about their lost loved one. Laughing about old times can be cathartic and it helps keep good memories alive. When these times emerge, embrace it. Listen, laugh, cry, and offer your own fond memories. When we lose someone we love, the memories are precious because they keep the person near to us.
- Never forget that he or she will never forget. The smiles will return. Life will begin to look somewhat normal again, and joy may once again fill the air; but, your friend or loved one will never forget the loss. Show you care by also remembering. Give an occasional gift that represents the lost loved one. Encourage tributes (e.g., giving something in honor of the deceased, remembering him or her during times of celebration, etc.). Mention him or her from time to time in a card or email.
- Do not forget needs still remain. In the first weeks, meals pour in with condolences and prayers. After a few months, some people still help, but the offers are fewer and farther between. Six months after a death, many grieving parties are left to fend for themselves. Though people do need to work through their grief and find their way in the world again, we can still be supportive and find little ways to make the journey less treacherous. Providing a meal once in a while, babysitting, running errands, or helping around the house can be extremely helpful as they get back on their feet. If we look hard enough, we can find ways to bless.
- Encourage growth and put fears to rest. There is guilt associated with moving on after the death of a loved one. Be there for your friend or family member and encourage him or her to embrace life again. Encourage him or her to honor the memory of the loved one by living life to the fullest. Give him or her the freedom to date again, enjoy hobbies again, or reach for goals again; and, be patient when he or she needs reminding.
- Help fill the void. No one will ever be able to take the place of his or her loved one, but you can step up and take the reins in some areas. You can agree to be his teammate in the minor league baseball hot dog eating contest tradition. You can join her at the beach for her family’s annual beach trip. Or, perhaps you could encourage him to continue hosting the karaoke parties he used to throw with his departed loved one. You can be there to keep those special traditions alive for your friend and in honor of the deceased as well.
In life-altering moments such as these, it does not matter how much we have accomplished, how many degrees we have earned, or how intrinsically gifted we are. All that matters is that we are there for the hurting and willing to get our hands dirty. As a teenager, when I had a prayer need my first instinct was not to find the most accomplished theologian I knew; rather, it was to find those faithful old saints of God who knew how to touch Heaven with their prayers.
Do not be burdened with your lack of knowledge or experience in these moments or think there is nothing you can do to bring comfort to a grieving soul. Your quiet presence alone is comfort. Granny touched many lives just by being the sweet, praying, cooking, precious woman that she was, and she was never rich or college-educated. But, if I was broken-hearted, I would want someone like her sitting near me more than any celebrity in the world.
It does not take much to be a blessing.
Is there anyone in your life who could use a little tender loving care, even years after the loss of a loved one?