Everyone has to say goodbye sometime
A woman who recently lost her mother, reached out to me to ask how she can help a friend who was trying to navigate the impending death of her own mother. On that same day, a man who lost his wife, asked how he can support her friends who are also grieving this loss. This is the reality of life.
As I head towards my fifty-eighth birthday, I find myself even more aware of my own mortality, but also the reality of the same for the people I love. When we are young, we think we will live forever and the theme of “we always have time,” interrupts living in the moment, and we put off things we might never end up doing. Time is not a guarantee regardless of our age, so I find myself reminding others to change their theme to, “Do it now. Do it all now.”
It is hard enough to work through your own grief, to put one foot in front of another every single day after someone you love dies but trying to be there for someone going through it as well can be difficult. How do you do that, and what can you say? I have learned that saying something like, “I know how you are feeling,” is inappropriate, because while we are experiencing it as well, we do not ever truly know what someone else is feeling.
I think the best thing you can do is to offer what you yourself would want, which I believe is to have someone listen to you, to truly hear you, simply to validate your feelings, and not to fix anything. Perhaps this is the reminder that everyone is going through something, some struggling more than others, but all trying to put one foot in front of the other the very best they can, day after day.
If someone you know has lost someone they love and they are grieving, check in on them. Offer to take a walk, have a phone conversation, or step away until they are ready. Most importantly, let them know they are not alone, and that you are there if they need you. And, if you too are grieving a loss, it is okay to be honest about however much you can (or cannot) give. Maybe you can find a way to walk that path together, perhaps each taking your own steps in whatever speed you are able, but together, nonetheless.
The most important lesson we can learn from the fragility of life and the preciousness of time is that we make every moment matter, not put anything off until "later", and remember that everyone has to say goodbye sometime… which means making every moment after that first “hello,” the very best they can be, with (and for) the people we love.