Over the past two months we have had several close friends die. Since we were not in the area at the time, we did not have an opportunity to visit the family in person. Therefore, I was left writing a note to (in all of these cases) the widows. This raises the common question, what should you say?
As one who lost a wife to cancer several years ago, my perspective is based on the responses that I received from numerous friends and supporters. The one phrase that seems to be used when we aren’t sure what to say is, “If there is anything I can do, please call me.” I found this, though I am positive it was well-intentioned, to be not only unhelpful, but actually annoying.
God granted us one of the best gifts in the form of memory. The cards and notes that recalled a time we had shared together was such an affirmation of how much the life of the loved one had touched them. It also was comforting to refocus on good times and not just the pain of the loss.
I think that this remembrance reaffirms our faith perspective that our heaven really begins here as we are a part of the fellowship of believers. Death is not only painful and difficult, it is also more than a single event. It continues as a wound that though healed continues to be sensitive. To this end, consider dropping a note to the family member a month or two after the death. Grieving is not a linear process, and an affirmation of concern after time has passed can be extremely helpful.
I’m sure this topic is one we would rather avoid, but know that an affirmation of concern is more significant than precise wording! Rev. Dr. Fred Leasure, Parish Associate