What To Do The Day Someone Dies Suddenly…
As you read the below…just remember 1 thing: Go “IN.”
Let me tell you a story. My son’s friend had a brother, Ryan. My son and his friend (Sean) were both 17 and Ryan was 20. Ryan was troubled. One night Ryan ended up killing himself. Ryan’s immediate family rushed to the hospital to see their deceased son. I was at an event and when my son called me with the tragic new, I rushed home to be with him…yet, my son was NOT home. Where was my son? At the hospital!!!
I was mad. I was concerned. I was devastated for Ryan’s mom (also my dear friend). Yet I didn’t want my son to get in the way of this family mourning and grief stricken. But it was too late. My son was already there. At the hospital. With all his buddies. All 12 of them. I worried they would be in the way. They were young. 17. What did they know about death? And space? And grief?
At the moment of my worry/concern, another mom called, “Where are you? I’m coming to pick you up…”
Still in shock, I asked no questions. I just answered, “I’m home…”
This mom said, “I’ll be right there…”
I picked up my coat and went to the porch to wait. I was sick.
A child died.
I couldn’t think.
A child died.
I couldn’t breathe.
A child died.
How would Ryan’s mom survive this?
Her child died.
I would be ready to help.
The mom who lost her child wasn’t ready to say good-bye. Now I’d be ready for whatever was needed of me.
A car whisked down the street and stopped at my home. I got in. There were 2 other moms in the car. There was brief chatter. The Mom driving drove to Ryan’s Moms home.
I was nervous. This dear child died mere hours before and now I was going to be with the mother. What was I to do? I’d been to funerals before but I’d never been in a home of a Mom the night she lost her child so suddenly. I begged God to help me do the right thing.
The home was what you’d expect. Raw. Horrid. Gut-wrenching. Yet there was comfort in all the warm loving bodies that were now present in the home. Ryan’s mom went between, talking, crying and howling. We huddled around her like a mama bear protecting a new cub….helpless…yet oh so loving. Cause that’s all you can do. No one can take pain away from someone else. You can comfort, but there is no escaping the pain of the loss of death. Specially a child. The worst pain/torture a mom can have.
During this huddle time…Ryan’s mom shared something that remains the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned.
Ryan’s mom was able to share this story on the night her older son died. She said, “When I left the room after seeing Ryan cold on the table, I turned to see the elevator door open. There, coming out of the elevator was Sean’s friends. All of them. There to support Sean…” As she spoke, Ryan’s mom cried and cried. This oddly happy moment within such grave sadness. With one son gone, her other son, her living son, was now alone in this world to go forth without his brother. And on this night, Ryan’s Mom saw, with her own eyes, that her younger son would NOT be alone. He was surrounded by love and comfort and to a grieving mom, that was an intense wonderful gift.
A gift I would have denied had I known my son was thinking about going to the hospital. What an idiot I’d have been. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. I’m so glad I wasn’t home when my son got the news. I’m so glad the boys went there. And I’m so grateful I learned this lesson to share with you…and others.
Death is horribly hard. But it’s part of life. And when it happens…our initial reaction is to run, hide, give space. But the exact opposite is needed for those who lost a loved one.
Your love, your presence, your human body is needed. Just be there. You don’t have to say a thing. Just be there. Breathe. Show them you care. That they are not alone on this earth. Let them talk. It will be the greatest gift you can give.