Do you ever wonder what to say to someone who has lost a loved one? Do you ever wonder if it’s okay to mention that person? If you’re like most people I know, you can probably nod your head to one or both of those questions.
Right up there with the myths that the world is flat or that the moon is made of green cheese lies the one that says you shouldn’t talk about someone who has died for fear of hurting those who are grieving. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone who’s grieving is easy, natural reminiscing about the person who has died.
Many people view the grieving process as a wound scabbing over, and believe that raising memories is like picking the scab, slowing recovery. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
His words are my words, but he speaks them so much more clearly than I have. Some of the most healing moments since my father’s death have come when people actually thought they were harming me or making it worse. But instead, their memories, stories, and curiosities about him have been better than band aids for those wounds. They’ve been grafts, giving newness to what was so raw before. Nothing calms my heart more than a fresh memory or insight into my father’s life, what he did, or who he touched.
For instance, at Frontline Church (where I settled down after moving home from college) I met a woman who had been a client of my father’s for a number of years. But our meeting wasn’t what I’d call normal. I was sitting at a table with a new acquaintance and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I smiled and said hello and this tanned, lovely woman leaned in as she said, “Are you Dr. K’s daughter?” Yes, I was. Right then she burst into tears and hugged me more fiercely than I had been hugged in what felt like years. She cried and whispered that she had been my dad’s client; that he had saved her marriage; that God had used him to show her she was loved; that she missed him so badly and that meeting me was just such a wonderful gift. I teared up and held her hands, her engagement ring digging into my thumb as she spoke to me about the ways my father touched her life.
Of course I had never been a client of my father’s, and all of his sessions were confidential; so having a client come up to me and be so frank and open about her own encounters with him allowed me to see into a part of his life I never had the chance to before. I learned that he talked about his kids all the time and that she felt like she knew me because of how proud he was of me. And as she apologized and said she was sorry for blubbering on like she had I just held her tighter and told her that she was ministering to me and that it was one of the best things that I could imagine happening at church. I miss those people very much and hope to visit again soon.
You see… memories heal. Laughter heals. Strangers coming up and hugging you, telling you how joyful your loved one made them… that heals.
Don’t be shy. Just share.