Thursday, March 17, 2016

It’s never too late to express condolences to the grieving

Whether through our own reminiscences or those of others, keeping alive the memory of a loved one who dies brings a sense of comfort.

In a recent column I wrote about learning about the death of a dear high school friend a month after she passed away. I felt sad because I wasn’t there to share in her family’s grief and I couldn’t, at the time of her death, acknowledge to them the big place my friend held in my heart.

A number of readers wrote to remind me that grief knows no timetable and that my condolences and memories would still be welcome, maybe even more so now.

I know this from experience.

At age 19, my boyfriend, who lived with my family at the time, was killed in a car accident. In my grief, which lasted a very long time, the bright moments were the ones when friends and family would reminisce about him, especially as time passed by.

At a recent Senior Concerns grief support group, hosted by Hospice of the Conejo, I asked the group how they were comforted by friends and family in their grief. Here were some of their responses:

“My husband was a photographer, and a friend recently showed me a 2012 photo my husband had taken of her. It was so special that she shared it with me.”

“Until my husband died I didn’t know how to talk to someone who lost a spouse. I realize now how remiss I was. It’s a gift to be able to relate to those who have had someone pass.”

“Children are resilient. They seem unafraid to share their memories. My grandchildren have been a wonderful comfort to me in my grief.”

“The friends who have helped me the most are the ones who have stepped alongside of me.”

The group also shared how important their support group is to providing encouragement, comfort and advice to each other.

“In support group I don’t need to choose my words.”

“If you don’t talk about your grief, it comes out in other ways.”

“Someone mentioned counseling to me and that sounds like I’ve got a problem. Support group is helping one another.”

“If I have thoughts or feelings of grief and sadness I can share them here. I come because I don’t want to worry or burden my family, especially my children, who are going through their own sense of loss.”

“A few friends have told me that my loss of my husband has them afraid the same may happen to them. I don’t want my grief to burden friends who might internalize my loss as something bad for them.”

Support groups are one important way we can honor and keep alive the memories of those we love. Here are a two more:

Keep their traditions alive. My friend bakes traditional German cookies at Christmastime just as her mother did every year.

Share stories about them. In a few weeks there will be a celebration of life for my friend Randi in Orange County. I plan to be there and pass on how Randi shared her love of musicals with me, took me to my first Broadway play (“Pippin”; I cried in wonder) and forced me to get over my fears and try out for a play. And how we eventually got a part in our senior class play together.

As long as we keep their memories alive, our future will always include loved ones from our past.


Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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