Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
When the sorrow is green and the wound of loss protrudes like an exposed broken bone, we come, we pray, we bring food and we cry and hug and sit with the one who mourns. However, once the week of it is over, we don’t have a ritual or a process for comforting people who grieve beyond… a month, six months, a year. Do we bring up the death? How do we comfort beyond the occasional “How are you doing?”
(1) Pray for the deceased, and have Masses offered. When my father died, a friend gave us a year of Masses for his soul. I left that card up on the mantle all year, as a reminder people were praying for my dad, and for me and my whole family. Put the person’s prayer card in your calendar or your family Bible. When you happen upon it, say a prayer, and make a phone call just to say “Hi.” Grief is made up of little moments of missing someone you love. Healing from that pain is also made of experiencing little moments of love from those around you.
(2) Remember the person, share stories and memories. Sharing what we loved about the person even with someone who never knew the person we miss, is a means of celebrating the life of the deceased. In particular, asking a friend about people they’ve lost on the anniversary of the person’s death, or near a holiday, especially the deceased’s birthday is a gift to the grieving. They can tell stories they may have allowed themselves to forget, and knowing someone else knows about the person they love, is a great comfort.
(3) Offer to go and visit the graveyard. Again, being willing to walk with the person who is grieving hardest is an act of mercy, and often, people need to go and be there and it means so much to know, they aren’t alone even as they go to this loneliest of places.
(4) Invite the person who misses someone out to dinner or the park or fishing or what have you. We live in a busy world, and if we’re not careful, whole months can go by without reaching out, without connecting. We’re supposed to stop, and recognize the time we have with each person here, is not to be wasted in busyness, the time we have is to be spent on each other. So schedule some time to spend, to waste with your friend.
(5) Ask the question, “how are you doing?” and listen to the answer. Recognize that grief comes out in all kinds of ways — by silence, by anger, by withdrawing, by busyness. Grief isn’t a linear process, it’s a gradual and ongoing experience. Some seasons, some holidays, some circumstances sting harder than others. So ask.
Finally, thank you. From all those who mourn, thank you.