Hello Sweet Friends…. I am just now coming up for some air. Our family has been venturing down a road that has been emotional, exhausting and heartbreaking.
Two weeks ago, on October 24th, 2018, my 19 year old nephew, Nicholas Schumacher lost his battle with Neuroblastoma cancer. He fought a 17+ month battle. We fervently prayed he would be healed, but God had other plans.
The weeks leading up to his death, I was privileged to spend more time with Nick than I had in any other time in his life. I still saw the smile, his personality and his determined spirit coming through.
He was the person who lit up the room as soon as he walked in with his infectious smile.
He had more JOY to spread during his short life than most do in 70 years.
He was incredibly talented in film making, even at only 19.
His Make A Wish trip involved a movie filming and meeting Tom Hanks. It’s was a powerful trip and an awesome video was created to celebrate.
The pain of real, heart wrenching grief has not touched me since I lost my mother just a little over 12 years ago. Grief will stick to your bones and bring you to your knees in the most dynamic way. Even 12 years later, there will be certain memories that will open the flood gates of tears.
It’s good to remember, it’s even better to allow the tears to fall.
During this past month, I’ve grasped some concepts and ideas on how to walk alongside someone who has experienced loss. My brother and his family are doing just that, right now. My heart breaks for them as they grieve the loss of a child, and I want to be a help during this time in ways that allow them space to walk the long road. Here are some of the things I have sent be helpful.
Just Be There
I had the privilege to be present when my nephew took his last breath and it was just an honor. I found the most joy and feeling of peace just being there in the moments with both my brother and my sister-in-law. Now, it’s the after…. the days that pass where they need someone to be present. To not forget what they are walking through…. so even thought I am not physically there in their home with them, I will text with a message asking, ” how they are doing today” or just to let them know I am praying for them.
In the days after Nick’s death I was just present. I asked questions, but often conversation just started, tears would start and I would just listen and allow space. I know many feel like they do not know what to say when someone has just lost a loved one…. and that is the beauty, you really do not have anything to say, except I am sorry. Just stop and be willing to listen. We try to cover that awkward space with endless words that can often make things feel worse. A hug can do so much. Silence also produces healing.
Offer to Give Specific Help
Many times we want to help others, and we tend to ask, “What can I do?” If you are in a the midst of grief, your mind and body is under a lot of stress and emotions and you are lucky to remember how to brush your teeth and drive your car. When you ask a person grieving what they need help with, they will often be blank. They are not sure. So instead of asking an open ended question like that, offer a specific way to help. Cleaning house, going grocery shopping, taking over errands, folding laundry, mowing their yard or just being available at their house to take deliveries is so much better.
Food….. this is important. The last thing one wants to think about is fixing a meal, let alone trying to eat. So a real practical task you can offer is bringing a meal. You can do this individually, or you can set up an option and coordinate it so many friends and family can contribute and make things very easy. One site I am familiar with and used was Meal Train. I set up a calendar of dinner delivery for two weeks, every other evening. After that, I set up meals for every four days, to allow my sister in law a chance to get things back to normal in the kitchen, but also allowing friends to help. Meal Train also allows for you to link up gift cards and offer a cash donation, which is great for those who do not live nearby. I will say, the donate funds option was a bit pricey on fees, so in the future I will set up a pay-pal option for friends to donate through.
Grief is a tough season, no question about it. However, these tips will help you walk alongside someone and be a true blessing during the process.