It seems perfectly normal to me, to think of those we’ve lost over the holidays. I posted a photo of a boyfriend who passed away many years ago on my Facebook wall this week. It was nice to share memories with those who knew and loved him as well. A kind of validation that he mattered. Then there were those who didn’t know him, but were interested in knowing more about him, and still others who sent a barrage of sympathy. I’m sure it was coming from their hearts – we all want to be kind and support our friends, but a few presumed they knew how I was feeling and wanted to offer unsolicited advice.

Happy times with Michael White

Happy times with Michael White

Friends close to my heart have lost loved ones over the past few years too. I know that awkwardness of not knowing exactly what to say? Of genuinely wishing you could dry their tears and shield them from the pain, but it is not about us, it is about their journey through coming to terms with loss. I think it’s important to be cautious that we don’t project our own feelings, or fear of feelings, onto others when offering sympathy.

I can’t think of anything more healthy than missing someone you once loved deeply – the time to worry about me is when I don’t share memories. I am a sentimental creature by nature, which has always been evident in my blog and other old photos I have posted, so why such a knee-jerk reaction to this photo?

Christmas party cheer with caroler's this weekend

Christmas party cheer with caroler’s this weekend

I can assure you I am not wallowing in the depths of depression, so please don’t jump to conclusions. Michael had a significant impact on my life. Sharing that photo was indicative of the fact I have come to terms with the loss. I can remember him with a smile today, rather than tears…  but even if there were tears, that would be totally appropriate too.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, it is a highly personal process. At the time, I discussed the despair that engulfed me with those I felt safe doing so. People who didn’t try to fix me, because no one else can alleviate that pain. You just have to feel it, and move through it in your own time.

Celebrating this weekend with longtime friend Monique St. Pierre

Celebrating this weekend with longtime friend Monique St. Pierre

I was really fortunate – the people I turned to simply loved me, and let me cry. They listened and didn’t judge, or try to tell me how to feel. I will always be grateful for their patience and support.

I appreciate your concern, thank you. Please know I am totally at peace with that part of my past, in fact, I had a particularly fun weekend full of Christmas parties, art, and good friends. What struck me as odd was the feeling that I needed to justify something as simple as posting a picture of a loved one.

Bekielou & Millie Brown with Julie Anne Rhodes

Pierre Huyghe at LACMA with the Brown Sisters

My motivation for this blog post is certainly not to shame anyone in any way, but hopefully to better equip you for the next time you want to comfort someone you perceive as experiencing loss. It is important to acknowledge and to let someone grieving know that you care, but beyond that, unless they ask for more, just be available and willing to listen. Let them have the space to go through the process however they need to. We all deal with loss differently, and each loss in itself may effect us differently, so there is no one-size-fits-all advice you can offer, anyhow.

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  • December 17, 2014
    11:36 am

    Jewels,
    I recently read an article written by my pastors wife on this subject. It is worth reading and sharing. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/december-web-only/kay-warren-stop-sending-cheery-christmas-cards.html
    And really when I see that photo, I just thinl how beautiful you look and what a great photo memory to have. Love you!Penelope

  • December 17, 2014
    4:13 pm

    Pen – While I respect that she is grieving, that anger is part of the process, and she is most certainly entitled to her feelings and view about Christmas cards – this article really only makes clear how SHE wants those around her to approach sending her Christmas cards. I certainly think it merits thought, but I think it is wrong to assume someone else in a similar situation would feel the exact same way – what offends her, may be the difference between feeling isolated or knowing others care for someone else. That’s why I recommend expressing your love and willingness to be there for someone grieving, but to give that person space beyond that to let you know how, when, and what (if anything) they want or need from you. There just isn’t a one-size solution for all.

  • December 17, 2014
    7:37 pm

    Yes, of course Jewels. I only thought it was interesting to point to, as honestly I had not heard a POV quite like that before. I definitely think taking each person’s feelings as individual and really just being there to listen to them is key. No one person is the same and even so, people are all at different stages of grief and moving forward in their life. I am way past my grieving phase (20 years) so for me photos of my fiance only bring fond memories.