Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
I Corinthians 15:51-53
What do you say to someone who has just lost a loved one? Many of us stumble and find the words, “I’m sorry,” to be a little weak. As someone who recently lost her mother, I appreciate any words that acknowledge my loss. “I’m sorry” is sometimes the only thing people can think to say. At least they say something, that’s what matters. But some people manage to present the perfect sentiments, the ones that encircle our pain and give comfort. Today, I thought I’d share some of the ones I’ve experienced with you, so some day, you can be prepared with more than, “I’m sorry.”
A few weeks ago, my sister and I gathered pictures of our mother for her memorial service. All of us agreed this picture of our parents when they were newlyweds was one of our favorites. What does it say to you? We saw their joy and happiness, but my daughter, Heidi, saw more. If you look closely, my Dad appears to be just putting his arm around Mom as if she’s just entered the room. Someone else, outside of the picture, is handing her a drink. Everyone appears welcoming and happy. Heidi told me this was how she envisioned my mother’s arrival in heaven, Her husband, there to greet her and draw her close while others gathered around, the joy of reunion in their faces. I love this interpretation and will never look at that picture the same way again.
My daughter’s thoughts took time to compose and express. Many people attempt to provide comfort in a card or email which means you can think about your words, first. My best friend wrote a simple, but healing, note at the bottom of the card she sent me:
No matter what the circumstances, we’re never ready to lose the person who gave us life.
May the one who gives us eternal life comfort you.
Simple, but powerful words that express exactly how I felt at the loss of my mother.
Online, I had mentioned to a private group that I suddenly felt like an orphan. One sweet sister, responded to my pain in this way:
…the scriptures also speak of death as an enemy and an enemy that will be utterly destroyed in the last day. So…it isn’t natural to say good bye. So grieve that you may be healed. The God of all comfort is anxious to heal all your wounds…
She validated my feelings of grief in these simple words. What a blessing to be given the acknowledgment and understanding of my feelings!
Other people help with poetic statements. When my father passed away in 2005, one of my mother’s friends wrote this on her condolence card. I kept it because it said so much:
A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam.
And for a brief moment
its glory and beauty
belong to our world.
But then it flies on again
and though we wish it could have stayed,
we feel so lucky
to have seen it.
Isn’t that beautiful? Doesn’t it say what a person is feeling at that moment of loss? I wish I could attribute this to the poet, but I don’t know who wrote it. Please tell me if you know.
And I’ll finish with a note I received from the Nurses Assistant Training program at Greenville Technical College. Their students spend their CNA internship at the nursing home where my mother lived for the last two years. Many of their students cared for my mother during this time. In a brief, but heartfelt note, the director wrote:
Please accept our sincere sympathy. Thank you for sharing your mother. She taught so many of us.
When a parent spends their last years in a nursing home, unable to do much of anything, we often wonder why. How can their life have meaning at this point? What a blessing to be told that your parent still had a few lessons to teach.
The next time you say, “I’m sorry,” to someone don’t berate yourself. It is appreciated, but maybe these examples will help you find other ways to comfort someone at their time of loss.
If someone has found a special and significant way to comfort you in the loss of a loved one, won’t you share it here? We can all benefit from these pearls of wisdom.