You know how we usually say you do not know someone’s truth until you walk in their shoes, or are in their situation? It is true, especially so when it comes to death.
Yes, DEATH. The one who’s touch leaves us cold, bitter, in anguish and turmoil. But sometimes the touch of death does also leave us relieved. Yes, it does if a person was in a lot of pain…. wouldn’t you rather have them suffer no more? And I mean all pain, not just the physical.
I know it sounds a bit cold to write that, but think about it… you the one left behind is in pain of loving a loved one which is natural, but there is nothing wrong in also letting them go and accepting that they are in a much better place where they are no longer suffering.
My family and I are still reeling in shock over losing several loved ones last year, more so my younger sister who died suddenly in August. What pains me the most is H, our kids and I were enroute to go see her. Sigh. IT HURTS SO BAD, and I do not know who said time heals because every single day I feel more pain.
As we planned her funeral a few things happened that pissed me off and made me come up with a few pointers on what one can do when others are grieving. I know some will be hard to do especially in my culture where death itself is a taboo subject. We do not talk of death openly and this makes us uncomfortable and most of the time we do not know how to console each other.
Here is what I came up with, in no particular order:-
• When you visit a bereaved person be conscious of what you say and ask. Let them speak first if they want to. If they do not want to give more information on what happened, DO NOT PRY. It is perfectly fine to sit there in silence.
• It is not the time to bring gossip and what other people are saying into a grieving home. Why would you even do that? Why?
• Do not say “ I know how you feel,” you don’t. You may have lost a loved one too but the pain is different. You could have both lost spouses and can console each other on the same without assuming the pain and anguish is the same.
• Don’t force the grieving person to tell you what they will do next. If a spouse dies, do you tell widows and widowers to change beds and houses immediately? It is NONE of your business.
• Don’t tell a grieving person “vumilia!” If they want to laugh, scream, roll let them do it as long as they are not endangering themselves and others. There is no textbook way to mourn.
• Respect the grieving person’s culture. Every culture has a way they deal with grief and bereavement. Don’t be condescending. Seek clarity from a friend familiar to that culture instead.
• Grieving is not a platform to compete about who knew the deceased better and who knows the family more. Hatushindani kwa machozi tafadhali. Be sensitive to the loss.
• Some help to the family goes a long way, be it financial or just helping out take out trash, stock groceries cleaning up etc. For the love of God help from the heart. And you do not have to help if you do not want to. Do not give any kind of help and expect to be rewarded for it. You help from the heart. Don’t expect a medal for it!
• Let the family determine the legacy they want for their loved one. AT their own time. Do NOT rush them into making decisions. God knows I can write a whole book on this!
• If the deceased person had indicated how they would want to be disposed. RESPECT IT! Who are you to question how and why someone is being cremated or buried in a certain way or at a certain place?
• After the funeral, it is ok to check on the family but don’t linger. Sometimes they also need some privacy in their Mourning as they try to cope in the absence of their loved one. If I’m bereaved and you come and find me out shopping don’t accuse me or make me feel guilty of doing normal things. There is no textbook way to grieve so if a long drive, retail therapy, or swimming will help me cope, let me be! Stop making people feel guilty for doing normal things. Life continues for them no matter how hard it is.
• Be silent and open to non verbal nuances. If the bereaved person wants to talk about the deceased, let them do it at their OWN time and shut up and listen. Do not offer opinions and answers unless asked as sometimes the person just wants to be listened to.
• Confidentiality and sensitivity is so important. Recording committee meetings or conversations taking place, taking photos and sharing them without express family permission is a BIG NO! Only vile human beings derive pleasure from sharing others’ anguish. Are you the type? Please stay away from grieving families if you answered yes.
• There are different stages of grief and family members and friends who have lost a loved one are rarely at the same stage at the same time. Respect that too.
Y’all can add your own….