Ok, so my husband is the person who said–and says–most of these things to me. And no, people aren’t generally quite as specific or direct as this. But perhaps, if you know someone who is grieving, this list might give you some ideas.
- I will check in on you, asking you specifically how you are doing in terms of your grief. I will do this on a regular basis (once a week, once a month) for as long as you need it. I will even set a reminder on my phone to do it. If you don’t want to talk about it, just tell me.
I understand that all your griefs are connected, so you will grieve your mother, your pets, your first marriage, your career, the horse farm where you grew up, and all your other losses extra hard during this time.
- You can tell me as often as you need to, in as much detail as you wish, about your grief. I will not feel burdened. It matters that you cried in the car on the way back from the dog park. I cannot offer any solutions, but I will listen.
- When someone dies who has known you your whole life, it may feel like part of your identity has died. I will listen to your old stories, the details of your life and your life with her: how you fake-fought about who would get your cocker spaniel, Amber, on your bed every night when you shared a room; how she used to talk as she was falling asleep, making less and less sense.
- Your life has meaning, even without your connection to her. Your presence in the world is different from hers, but just as important. She may have helped hundreds of people by being with them during hard times, working with them at her therapeutic riding center, and visiting them as a nurse or chaplain, but every life has ripples that are not always easy to see.
- There is no timeline for grief, or for joy. You may feel both within the same minute. Ordering a gardenia bush—your one exception to choosing native plants these days—may bring delight and also hollowness, because she will never see it, never smell its heavy fragrance that your mother, she, and you love.
- Missing the stupid things—the ritual exchange of “you’re weird,” the pet medical advice when you know you’re going to the vet anyway, making chocolate chip cookies just the way she liked them—is normal.
- Write as many words about her, and your loss of her, as you wish. Maybe people will eventually read them; maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Write them anyway. Write thousands. It’s not selfish, and even if it is, that’s ok. You don’t get a prize for “best bereaved person.”
It will get better. It will never go away, this loss, this emptiness, this ache, but it will be less intrusive. Eventually you won’t cry every day. Eventually you won’t reach for your phone to call her. Eventually you won’t think of every vacation in terms of whether she would like it: beach or mountains, warm or cold, cathedral or moors.
- Keep talking about her. Don’t be afraid of your own pain, or causing it in others. She did not disappear out of your memories. Anyone who ever heard her giggle will never forget it. She was here. She was real. She still is.