My husband and I attended a reception at a country club this week. It was a nice gathering and of course it was great to see a few friends.
I sipped on a glass of wine, visited with a few people and due to a prior commitment left before Neal and far too soon. The weather was beautiful and as I walked towards my car, I noticed a gentleman standing by an old red pick-up truck holding a blue vase with flowers in it.
He smiled, said hello and then asked if I liked the flowers. Normally, I would have smiled and walked on by but instead I stopped.
There was a funeral in the room next to the reception Neal and I had attended. Clearly, the man was at the country club for this funeral. I talked with him but for a moment yet he shared that his youngest brother had died.
The brother had passed away suddenly from a massive hard attack and as a result this man had traveled from Texas to celebrate his brother’s life.
I did not know this man and in fact, I was a complete stranger. But – he chose to show vulnerability as well as share his profound grief. My heart ached for him and of course, I told him that I was so sorry for his loss. This stranger from Texas asked if he could have a hug and although we had just met in the parking lot of a country club I felt it was the right thing to do.
He thanked me, I wished him well and headed home to meet my daughter for dinner.
I share this story because this man’s vulnerability to trust me enough to share his grief touched my heart. Some of you may find it strange that I would hug this individual, but rather than find this to be concerning, I would ask that you keep an open mind. For me, this brief but random exchange reminded me that grief is everywhere.
Grief inevitably surrounds us every day. It ebbs and flows through all walks of life coursing through our veins regardless of race, gender, age, economic status or the color of our skin. Grief is universal and it is prejudice to no one. It will find its way to all of us in spite of how hard we try to hide or outrun it.
Eventually, you will experience dual roles. You will be a griever and in addition, you will support someone who is grieving. It is a hard fact of life and yet people try to ignore it, hide from it and struggle to accept it.
Yes my friends – grief is everywhere and sadly, there are many times we don’t realize just how close by it is. Perhaps it is the woman in front of you in line at the checkout counter of the grocery store. Or, maybe the waiter that just served you a cup of coffee is grieving a loss. It might be your neighbor, your teacher, a colleague at work or a friend. Perhaps it is the taxi driver at the airport, the person cutting your hair, the woman sitting next to you at a movie theatre or the flight attendant that helped stow your bags.
The point is clear. Any person that you pass by today, talk with or encounter could be hurting and filled with grief. But – far too often, you will never know it. Society and our culture have become very good at hiding pain and grief. Grief makes people uncomfortable and as a result most will say that they are “fine”.
Fine is the four letter word that should be banned and consequently, it is a word that creates a barrier in healing from loss and grief. Life is hard and there are far too many days that clearly, people are not fine.
Every day human beings are facing things that quite frankly, cause stress and break their hearts.
Couples are in the middle of a painful divorce.
A family pet has died.
People are diagnosed every day with a terminal illness or a disease that will change their lives forever.
Parents are spending hours in the hospital taking care of their terminally ill kids.
Empty nesters are faced with taking care of their elderly parents or facing that inevitable loss.
Women are suffering through miscarriages and facing the loss of their unborn babies.
Loss of jobs, financial stability and the fear of losing a home if the mortgage can’t be paid.
Rejection after finding the courage to share that you are gay.
Suicidal teens and the constant concern that they will be here tomorrow.
Bullying at our schools.
Mass shootings everywhere – nowhere feels safe.
Loved ones fighting a war across continents and the fear of them never coming home.
The first Christmas and many other holidays after a loved one has died.
Loss of mobility after an untimely accident.
A tornado wiping out a community in the blink of an eye.
Kids leaving home and going to college.
Single parenting and trying to do it all.
Grieving the loss of a loved one after a long illness or a sudden death.
Human trafficking and the disappearance of sons and daughters never to be seen again.
A tragic fire and the loss of a business and lifelong dream.
Addiction and/or trying hard to live a sober life.
Feeling like you are not good enough.
Bulimia, anorexia or feeling stuck because of your weight.
First responders and the stress they must face in the wake of their jobs every day.
Honestly, I could fill page after page with examples of loss and the grief that accompanies it. Loss and grief are everywhere and while we might try to outrun it, in general there is no place to go.
It is tragic to think about and yet the reality is that there are people all around you that are missing a loved one, grieving a loss of something or someone or worrying about something. Human beings are often stumbling through life simply trying to survive from one day to the next. Sadly, we live in a world that is constantly filled with soul crushing fear. We often try to act like all is good on the outside yet we are crumbling on the inside. Are you?
It doesn’t matter if the loss is recent or if the loss is in the past – grief and loss will change you and become a part of who you are. There is no way to avoid it and quite honestly, it is time for all of us to wake up and recognize that no one is immune to any of this. Grief is a part of the human condition. Everyone is struggling with something or will at some point in their lives.
So – what can we as friends, spouses, parents, children, colleagues and for that matter all fellow human beings do? How can we help others that are grieving yet alone help ourselves?
There are no easy answers but nevertheless there are a few small things that all of us can do:
BE KIND. Remember – grief is everywhere and it is often impossible to know if a person that passes by is grieving or not. People don’t wear signs or wave flags to signal to others that they are in pain. Assume nothing and just be kind. It’s not a hard thing to do. A smile, a simple hug, or showing that you care can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Being kind costs nothing.
BE AWARE. Pay closer attention, look deeper and past the surface. Really listen. Increase your awareness and remember that people are fragile. The person next to you on the plane or in the checkout line may be grieving something and struggling just to breathe. Be patient with those around you.
DON’T JUDGE. It is impossible to know what another is going through without first walking in their shoes. I write about this often. It is so important to live life keeping this in mind. Instead of casting judgement or throwing stones, shower others with empathy and compassion. There will come a time when you will need others to do the same.
SHOW UP. If you learn that someone is struggling or grieving, just show up. Society is uncomfortable with grief and therefore most people don’t know what to say. So – invariably – they say nothing at all. Please don’t run from those that are in pain. Stop the silence and above all, show up. There will be days when they just need someone to hold them or listen. And – don’t ask if they are fine. I can promise you that they are not fine.
DARE TO GRIEVE. Life is hard and loss sucks but it is important to remember that grief does not have to be the enemy. Grief when faced can build the bridge that leads to healing our hearts and moving beyond the pain. We often grieve because we cared about or loved someone or something. Grief shows up because someone or something mattered to our wellbeing or in our lives.
Regardless of the loss, it is important that you honor it, face it and allow yourself to grieve it. And – be there for others as they face the journey of their grief as well. That is where the healing of the heart begins.
Grief is everywhere and if I dare, I would ask that each and every one of you dig a little deeper and with resolve, head into tomorrow with an open heart and be just a little more aware. Lead with kindness and with love as you march out into the battlefield of life knowing that we are all fighting some type of battle. In the end, we share more commonalities that people realize and at some point everyone grieves and will face a broken heart. We are in this together.
There will be storms but there is always hope, healing and resilience that follows every storm. I have heard countless stories that unveil the good that rests within the arms of mankind and while life is hard, it is often through loss, grief and hardship that people come together. This is who we are and need to be.
Be there for one another and work together to heal all that is broken. Even…if it starts with something as simple as giving a hug to a grieving stranger. We can ALL make a difference in this grief-stricken world.
In Peace and With Love,