The Perfect Place to Grieve
Bob Baugher, Ph.D.
Des Moines, Washington
Loss affects us all. You cannot be human and not be touched by it. The fact that you are reading this indicates that you have experienced the pain and anguish over the death of someone that you love. As you grieved, did you receive (or are you receiving) the understanding you would like? The care you want? The support you need? What would your life be like if you had “perfect” support from those around you? Of course we humans are not perfect. But, just for a few minutes, imagine if you awoke tomorrow and found the world transformed into a mecca of bereavement support. What a beautiful place it would be. Let’s take a trip. Let’s imagine a place called GriefHaven.
It is the moment that your loved one died. The last thing you need now is a crowd of people trying to comfort you. Yet, to be left alone in your grief is not helpful either. But in this community of caring, you find that the phone calls, the visits, the prepared food, and the offers to help all match your needs. In the midst of your grief, it does feel good to be cared for without being smothered.
It is the day before the funeral and you are walking down the street of GriefHaven in a haze of despair. People are coming up to you, some you hardly know, saying, “I’m so sorry” and “I will be there tomorrow.” And “I will miss him.” You arrive home and there are cards awaiting you. Not the Hallmark rhyming kind, but handwritten notes of love and caring. Flowers adorn your living room with colors bursting in pinks, blues, yellows, whites, and reds. During the next few days and weeks, food from families who’ve lived in every corner of the world grace your kitchen. Despite your limited appetite, a new aroma fills your home each night. Your freezer brims. Your heart is heavy, but your palate never lacks. Friends know that, in the weeks and months to come, your taste will gradually return and the food in your home will remind you that you live amongst people who care and know how to show it.
The next day, as you walk into the funeral home, you see the chapel filled with young and old, all there for you. Yes, they all knew your loved one, but it is for you they put on their good clothes and sit quietly through the service. And when the call came to “say a few words” the long line formed immediately. No forty-minute speeches here. Each person packed a great deal into three- and four-minute orations, giving all a chance to share their memories of a life well-lived. After the funeral, the gathering is a perfect balance of stories, of merriment, of lessons learned, of serious talks, and of how the world has been left with a gaping hole.
In the weeks and months following the funeral, bereaved people in most communities are left to fend for themselves, are offered clichés such as “I know just how you feel” and are given the “are you still grieving?” look. These hurting people see that people have moved on with their lives while theirs is forever changed. But not here in GriefHaven. People here don’t forget. They understand loss. They know you never “get over” it. So, during the next year you continue to receive casseroles, hugs, and “I remember him” stories. Someone mails you a video of the funeral, knowing that for you the service was a blur. Cards continue to come in the mail reading, “A donation has been made in memory of….” How nice it is to continue to see your loved one’s name in writing. Even on the one-month date since the death you get three cards. To your delight, two more cards come on his birthday. On the one-year date, you receive seven phone messages, 11 emails, five cards, three plants, and nine text messages, all in their own way saying, “I remember.” And in the following year and at the five-year point, the messages of caring continue. It is true that you will never, ever forget this date. And, so, apparently, neither will many of these caring folks.
Years later, as you sit in your living room taking in the amazing support in this world of
GriefHaven, you think to yourself, I remember not too many years ago when people seemed too busy to care. They lived their lives and left others to grieve on their own. Now look at what we’ve accomplished! Yes, indeed, in our community loved ones continue to die every day; but thank goodness for the people from GriefHaven. I don’t know how I would have made it without them.
Thanks to Janée J. Baugher, MFA for her editorial feedback on this article.