How to Help a Friend Face the Anniversary of a Loved One's Death
A card from a dear friend showed up at my front door on Sunday. On Monday, the texts started coming. Friends are faithfully remembering that this week last year was difficult for me and my family.
On Thanksgiving Day, it will be one year since I've held my dad's hand and saw the dimple on the end of his nose for the last time. I don't miss the sickness and the suffering, but as each day passes I miss my dad's unique traits, kindness, and sayings that made him irreplaceable.
The comfort I'm finding from my friends and family remembering me is holding me up this week. During this week of thanks, I'm counting this remembering of my loss as my greatest blessing.
Before losing my dad, I knew of some ways to support a grieving friend, but this year I have learned so much more about caring for others through the ways my friends have cared for me.
This list is one I've been keeping mentally, but I want to write it down so I will remember how to care better for my own friends and family. Here's my list of what has meant so much to me.
1. Acknowledge the loved one's birthday - My friends did not let my dad's birthday pass without notice. That day was particularly difficult for me because it felt like it was his day and he wasn't here. The tears flowed and I really missed calling him to hear about his day. One friend insisted on bringing me a meal on my dad's birthday and she even included yellow roses.
2. Share a favorite memory and give a small gift related to the memory - My sister gave me the gift of a precious memory on my dad's birthday - Breath Savers. My dad would always have a roll in his pocket. During church, he would pass the roll down the pew. My kids remember Big Pop always having Breath Savers for them. My dad's birthday was a Sunday this year, so the kids took our Breath Savers gift to church and they shared the mints with others at church. What a fun way to remember!
3. Check in with cards, texts, emails, or phone calls - I haven't been overwhelmed with friends reaching out, but I have treasured each time someone has remembered me. I believe sometimes people don't reach out because they are afraid to make the grieving person sad, but most of the time, I believe that is not the case. The reaching out comforts me because they are affirming my loss. If I'm having a hard day, a text can remind me that I've been through a hard time and it's okay to be having a hard day. If I'm having a good day, being remembered makes it better. The Hampton Inn hotel staff that cared so well for my family sent a card and I was in awe that they remembered.
4. Remind them their loved one was "legendary" - Right before my dad's birthday a friend sent me a link to a blog post that described my feelings better than I have ever even described them to myself. The blog post was written by a man on the anniversary of his father's death and it explained why the loss of a loving parent or friend hurts so much. This post was validating, encouraging, and one I hope to share with others as they lose the "gentle fixtures" in their own lives.
John Pavlovitz writes, "...I want you to know that someone understands that you too have famous people who you've lost; legendary, monumental, household names whose passing changed your personal history irrevocably. For you their death has been more earth-shattering and path-altering than any celebrated singer or politician or humanitarian or athlete. They were the peerless superstars of your story and I know how hard it is to be without them, how much it hurts to grieve them, how much you wish the world knew of their greatness and goodness..."
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