Best of the Best: On “A Grief Observed” • Cathy Best
In the last couple of years, a dear friend experienced some of life’s most difficult challenges and heartbreak: her mother’s declining health and subsequent passing, her closest childhood friend lost her battle with cancer, and the loss of two sisters- the oldest to breast cancer and the youngest, tragically, just days before Thanksgiving. I marvel at her ability to greet each day with the purpose of moving forward and addressing her grief head-on. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it is, but I still hear her laugh at silly day–to-day things while processing all that has happened. It amazes me that she has endured so much, and yet, her sense of humor remains intact; she manages to find the good spots in life.
The funerals of her loved ones were in distant cities, but friends still wanted to do something for her, as in, “let me know if you need anything,” or, “what can I do for you?” We discussed how people mean well when they offer to help; they sincerely want to do something to ease the heartbreak, to make it better. She shared how overwhelmed she was by the circumstances of each loss and that she didn’t know what she needed, or what friends could do to support her. In her state of grief, it was difficult to put a finger on exactly what would help.
I began to realize, during phone conversations, what helped her the most were those who took action and made a casserole for the freezer, cooked the Thanksgiving turkey and delivered it, offered a year of grief counseling, and helped her write the wedding announcement for her daughter’s upcoming wedding, to name a few. Each of those friends listened, heard a need, and responded by executing a specific task; they offered something concrete, “I can do that for you,” rather than, “what can I do for you?” Maybe I’m behind the curve, and the last to figure this out, but I learned a valuable lesson in grief support.
Best of the Best
“One never meets just Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment that comes. All manner of ups and downs. Many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
• A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
• When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner
• The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John W. James and Russell Friedman
“Here Comes the Sun,” lyrics by George Harrison, performed by The Beatles. Download from iTunes.
Printed in the February 21 edition.