Do Not Be Afraid

She came to my register with a beautiful flag display box. A woman in her early 60’s, I knew it must be for her husband or son. I commented on how beautiful it was and told her it reminded me of the one my Grandmother had for my Grandfather. It sat on top of the piano from the time he died in 1992, until her death in 2008.

With tears in her eyes, she told me it was for her husband who died 2 months ago. I replied with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry”. Then I asked what branch of the military he was in. She told me he was a career Air Force man. I thanked her for her sacrifice. I told her I had many friends with husbands in the military, and I know what a sacrifice it is for the women who love and support them.

This time tears slid freely down her cheeks as she thanked me. As she walked away, the man she was with (I think it was her brother) put his arm around her shoulders. She looked back at me again and mouthed, “thank you”.

I didn’t feel bad I’d made her cry. I know I didn’t remind her of what had happened. She knows what happened, she remembers it with every breath she takes. What I did though, was give her a chance to talk about the man she loves. It gave her the opportunity to have him live on, not only in her heart, but in mine.

I know our society is very uncomfortable with death. This is something that has been made abundantly clear to me in the last 11 years. We don’t know what to do, don’t know what to say. So instead, we let silence fill the gaps. And with each encounter like this, the grieving heart breaks a little more.

In my experience with grief, I wanted to talk about Emma. I wanted everyone to know about my daughter. I wanted them to know my life was forever changed. I wanted them to know I was hurting. I wanted to share her with anyone who would listen.

But I found the silence deafening.

I found people didn’t want to ask, they didn’t want to talk, they didn’t want to know. It was uncomfortable for them because they didn’t know what to say. If only they knew all I wanted was for them to listen and acknowledge my pain, maybe things would have been different.

For that reason, when I hear someone is grieving, I do not offer my silence, but instead I stop what I’m doing and talk to the person. I acknowledge their grief and pain. It can be such a lonely path to walk, the least I can do is offer a hand to hold for a minute or two.

For those left behind to face this new world that is forever changed by grief, I offer you this; I will listen. I will teach others to listen. I will not be afraid of death and talking about death. I know I am not reminding you of your pain by asking about it. I will not be afraid and I ask that all who read this not be afraid either.

Ask, listen, share in the grief. Don’t let those around you walk alone. Hold their hand and give them a portion of peace in their day.

Do not be afraid.

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