This was written on our son’s carepage five months after his 20th birthday. It is still relevant today and I wanted to share it with you.
7 Ways You Can Help Me in My Grief written 10/30/06
1. Don’t try to “Fix-It.” Try to listen to me without judgment. I don’t need you to “fix” my pain, anger or tears. Just allow me to share it with you.
2. Say it with Food, and Hugs and written notes. Now more than ever, we need to know how much you love us and are praying for us. Bring us a meal occasionally – we have days that we don’t even know what to prepare for dinner and can’t figure out how to prepare it even if we know we have it in the house! Hug us often and say “I love you,” or “I’m praying for you” with actions and words, over and over again – even if you think we know it. Write a note and tell us what you remember about our loved one or what he meant to your life. And then write us another note to mark the anniversary – by weeks, months – or other special occasions. (Letters in the mail, cards with little remembrances, are tangible prayers that we can hold in our hands as well as our hearts.)
3. Offer Specific Help. “Call me if there is anything I can do” is just too hard for me to do right now – I don’t really know what I need to do and I certainly don’t know what to tell you to do! So offer specific help. Can I shop for your groceries? Can I drive you to a doctor’s appointment? Arrange to take us out for coffee or lunch – individually, so we can talk. Run errands – the cleaners, drug store, post office, bank deposits. Arrange among our circle of friends to deliver meals. Set up a cooler outside the door – so we don’t feel obligated to meet and greet each meal delivery – and drop off dinners there.
4. Faraway Friends. You’re halfway across the country, but you desperately want to help us. You know us – we feel passionately about helping others struggle with cancer and finding new treatments and will appreciate if you participate in a walk-a-thon, or rally a group to do so in Matthew’s honor.
5. Deliver Comfort – Pamper Us. When we are at home just stop by with special little things to make us feel special. This is especially important for the kids – Zachary and Stephanie – they get overlooked in their grief as folks ask “How are your mom and doing?” Take a good book, a couple of magazines, or a gift card to the local video store. Drop by with a couple of milkshakes or a favorite coffee drink or favorite snack.
6. Just Be There. When you are hit with such a tragedy you are hurled into a world that is very unfamiliar, scary and lonely. Suddenly you do not feel like you are a “normal” person anymore but that we belong to a club no one ever wants to be a part of. And people react to you in very interesting ways. Some good some bad. Each family member is an individual dealing with our pain and stress in our own way.
7. Ask us what we need without judgment – and then ask us when you see us again, and then again. At the time you ask, we may not be able to answer you. Remember, some of us want to talk – some don’t. Some need to retreat – some don’t. And these needs change day-to-day. We need above all else to feel unconditionally loved, supported, respected and part of the world. “Love is such a curative property that it cannot be quantified.”
I’ve added an eighth way:
8. Help Us Remember. One of our greatest fears is that we will forget Matthew – what his voice sounded like, what he looked like, his favorite food, how he laughed, what it felt like to have him hug us. So, talk to us about him – mention his name, tell us the stories you remember, write the stories down and share them with us! Also, ask others to honor Matthew’s memory and share Matt’s story with someone else.
Now for an update…
Remember our pain and grief still lives within us. Our son is still DEAD! He isn’t gone, he hasn’t been lost, he isn’t away – he is DEAD. We will celebrate moments in life, but never without the knowledge that a vital part of us is absent. So, it still matters 3 years and 3 months later, that we are not walking this difficult road alone. And it matters that YOU remind us we are not walking alone. And it matters that you share with us the many ways you have been touched by Matthew’s life and death.
Keep in touch, it matters to us.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a