My sister in law passed away yesterday.
She was sick for a LONG time. And she wasn’t a part of our everyday lives due to her choices in this lifetime. But it’s never easy. You always feel a loss no matter the circumstances. She was only 48 years old. What a tragedy. A life ending way too soon.
I’m no stranger to death. None of us are. I’ve lost a sister too.
I’ve done a LOT of work on my own grief. Learning at a young age how to deal with loss is a blessing when you get older.
When. You. Get. Older.
And there’s another benefit. You can help others through it.
Here are some things that came to me yesterday.
#1. Lean in
Sometimes it’s hard to go all in and help when someone dies. I realized recently that I fall back into and feel all the loss in my life when someone else loses someone. At first I want to pull away. I want to say ‘I’m sorry’ and be busy and send a card and move on. I don’t want to be pulled back into that pain. But I realized that pulling away only delays our own healing. And doesn’t help them at all. So now…I lean in. I FEEL it. I cry. I grieve. I tell them how awful it feels and that I know it. I go all in.
#2. Just show up
A lot of people offer to help. “Let me know what I can do”. But when you’re in it. You don’t even know what you need. JUST SHOW UP. Sure send dinners. Drop off cards. Bring food. Give them tickets to a hockey game. Whatever comes to you. And also, maybe more importantly, text them and tell them you’re there. Not just emotionally there but physically there. “I’m at the park down the street, I’d love to take a walk if you’re free. Text me back if you’re available.” “I have a sitter and a reservation at our favorite restaurant. Show up if you can.” “I’m on your front porch if you need a hug”. That type of showing up. Make offers to drive the kids. To take them out. To go on trips. To distract them with the beauty of life. And SHOW UP. It helps. I promise.
#3. Help them be happy
After my sister died people were awkward with me for a LONG time. They wouldn’t talk about her. It was weird to laugh. It felt like the joy was sucked out of life. Like it wasn’t allowed for a while. Laughter and joy can be a fast track back to the normalcy that we’re longing for. Let them laugh. Help them to find that happiness again. What lights them up inside? What do they love? Do that. Don’t be afraid to let joy seep in. Seek it out for them. No amount of sadness will change the situation. You can still encourage them to feel the grief while also share some happiness and laughter.
#4. Be normal
Don’t tread lightly around everything. There’s too much “are you ok?” conversation and that just sets things back. Be YOU. And let them be them. When you can help them get back to a sense of normal without always bringing the heaviness back in they will feel safe with you. And that’s when they’ll FEEL and that’s when they’ll heal. So…Dance. Vent. Eat ice cream. Complain about the weather. Whatever it is you do regularly, do it X 1000. It’s needed now more than ever.
This life is so precious. Sometimes in deep grief we want to give up. But really we have found a new version of ourselves. Anyone who’s greiveing need us now more than ever. When we can really show up, it can deepen our relationship and create a lifelong connection. Besides, who knows when you’ll need them to return the favor? Life is precious. Be there for it.
We’ll miss you Deirdre. You did your best with the hand you were dealt. And we all loved you a lot! RIP.