We’re all missing someone, and it hurts.
Loss is painful. Grief is challenging. We never get over people. We’re not designed to.
Life is about relationships. We’re wired for connection. No wonder we don’t do separation well. When someone we love departs, they leave a hole in our hearts.
As a hospice chaplain and grief counselor, I’m in daily contact with loss and death. Grief is part of the atmosphere I breathe. Every interaction reminds me how crucial it is to live now and live well.
Recently, I had the honor of speaking at a Hospice Celebration of Life service. Several hundred people came, some with pictures in hand, to pay tribute to and honor loved ones who died over the last year. As I looked out at that sea of faces, I could see the grief in their eyes. Emotional pain mixed with a quiet reverence permeated the room.
As one attendee put it, “I’m alive, but heartbroken. I’ll never be the same.”
No, we will never be the same. How could we be? Someone we love is missing.
I began my talk with, “I’m so glad you’re here. Tonight, we’re here to remember, to honor those we’ve lost, and to express our love for them. You’re here because you loved them, and you love them still.”
I went on to share five practical ways they could remember, honor, and celebrate their loved one. I would like to share these with you today because how you grieve matters, both for you and the world around you.
If you’re hurting from a loss, is it possible to grieve well, honor the one you’ve lost, and still engage in life?
Absolutely. Here are five action steps you can begin to take immediately.
1. Speak their name.
Names are powerful. Just a few letters can mean so much.
Say their name out loud and often. See their face. Picture their smile. They matter, and so do you. Speak their name.
2. Tell their story.
Tell your stories of them to whomever will listen. Share those memories that nothing and no one can take from you. Telling their story – which in many ways is also your story – will help you process your grief and begin to heal.
And as you share, you’ll see them in your mind’s eye. You will remember. Telling their story is part of loving them. It’s also part of taking your own broken heart seriously.
Tell their story.
3. Live their legacy.
What really mattered to them? What was their life about? Let something that was important to them be important to you. Continue the cause. Serve in their stead. Give. Live their legacy.
In many ways, they are not gone. They are a part of you. They deeply impacted you and contributed to who you have become. Let them inspire you to serve for the greater good.
Live their legacy.
4. Honor them on special days.
Our calendars are littered with special times – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and many more. These are wonderful opportunities to intentionally remember them and express your love for them.
Light a candle. Gather with others and share memories. Write them a letter or card. Set up an empty chair. Be creative. Be proactive. Make a plan. Keep it simple.
Don’t dread these times and let them hijack you. Take action. Honor them on special days.
5. Love them by taking care of yourself.
A wonderful way to honor your loved one is to take the best care of yourself possible. Make this number one on your priority list. You owe it to yourself and those who love you to be the best, healthiest version of yourself possible.
As a bonus, you’ll feel better overall and everyone who encounters you will experience the trickle-down effect of your conscientious self-care.
Grief is draining, demanding, and exhausting. Honor them by taking care of you. You’ll be serving those around you as well, perhaps without even knowing it.
Speak their name. Tell their story. Live their legacy. Honor them on special days. Love them (and others) by taking care of yourself.
Imagine if we all did this. The growth and healing we would experience would be stunning. We would reap gains from our losses. And we might just live more meaningful, passionate lives than ever before.
Award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist Gary Roe is a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years. Click here to get a free excerpt of his new book, Comfort for Grieving Hearts. For more information visit www.garyroe.com.