Thursday, September 11, 2014
Anchors in Grief—Carolyn R. Wilker
Recently I marked the date of my friend’s birthday, September 2nd, though she died eight months ago. I posted one of my favourite photos of her on my Facebook page.
Her own facebook page is still up and there was a reminder of her birthday— which I could never forget. And her voice is still on their home answering machine. It wrings at the heart. It’s hard when a friend dies. This was a friend I've known since early childhood.
On my Facebook page that day, I received many virtual hugs from others who have known grief too, and those were much appreciated. Yet not all reactions to grief are similar.
Some say, “Keep busy.” Others say, “Move on,” as if the loss were trivial. And while I know that one must keep putting one foot in front of another, I recognize that grief is something that one has to deal with. Grief is hard work. I’ve seen friends struggle with the death of a baby and another who is grieving the death of her husband who was just as much a friend. I will offer a hug and a listening ear, knowing this is a difficult time and a grief I do not know.
Years ago, Belinda, a fellow writer, understanding how it felt to lose a friend, told me about a little book titled, When a Friend Dies, and suddenly I need it again. On one page of that book, Harold Ivan Smith writes, “Give yourself permission to grieve for your friend.”
In the book the writer recognizes that a friend is the one who bakes cookies for the bereaved family. She may also be the one to listen and support them during the friend’s illness, death and afterwards, but she is rarely the one consoled at losing a friend. Although at visitation just over a year ago, on the death of another friend, Annie, her husband kept saying to me, “You were a good friend.” I was honoured at his words— warm, appreciative and kind. And I recognized his different grief at losing his wife.
A sailor puts down an anchor to keep the boat from drifting away when it is necessary to stay in one place. An anchor might also be the person we love who has helped us in those places where we must stay awhile, and they help when the boat moves on too. Providing stability, praying perhaps when there are rough waters ahead. These friends—Gayleen, Annie and Barbara—have held that place for me.
Yet, as long as the process goes on— and it can be a long time—there is another anchor. Perhaps one of the most comforting verses from the Bible is James 14:2-3, “In my father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus knew grief; he wept for his friend Lazarus, and so he understands and cares how we feel.
Grief comes and goes. Some days are harder than others. I am sad because I am separated from one I care about, and so I do what I can to alleviate that sadness that goes with loss. I write about my grief, I think about her, and I recognize the pain. As I pray for my friend’s family, I can also pray that God would comfort me in my grieving.
And now, months later, perhaps my friend is looking down and wondering how we’re doing. God will tell her, “Worry no more. Be at peace.”
Resources for Grief:
When Your Friend Dies, Harold Ivan Smith, Augsburg, 2002.
Winter Grief, Summer Grace: Returning to Life after a Loved One Dies, James E. Miller, 1995.
Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox
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