I got asked a question recently and I thought it would be a good one to address here. Hopefully this can help others to know how to treat someone who is grieving. The person was telling me that they don't know how much they should talk about their friends loved one who passed away. There is a fear talking about who/what you've lost is like picking at a wound. Here's my answer to that-talk about him. Say his name. Tell your stories. Share your memories. The worst thing that you can do is act like our loved one never existed. Too many people are scared to mention Joel to me. Sometimes when I talk about him I can see them physically recoil back as if they don't know how to take the mention of someone who has died. Here's the thing, in my home Joel, his life, his stories, and who he was will always be present. If that makes someone uncomfortable that is not our issue. We will never act like he didn't exist. We love to talk about him and tell our favorite stories about him. When I see my son do something that reminds me of Joel I tell him "you are acting just like your Daddy!" I will always do that. Sadly Milo will be too young to remember his father besides photos and video. I believe it will be a source of comfort for him to know exactly what traits he has that he got from his father. Milo will know his father through me. He will know who he was through me. He will know the stories and the funny moments through me. It is therefore up to me to be Joel's biggest cheerleader and keep him present and near, always. Last night I was talking on the phone to one of Joel's best friends from childhood. He was laughing and telling me old stories about Joel. I love talking to my husbands guy friends about him the most because none of them are afraid or hesitant to talk about him. That's their Bro and in some ways they need to tell their stories even more than I need to hear them. Some of these stories I've heard a thousand times. I still need to hear them. I will always need to hear them.
Sometimes when there's pain associated to a person or a memory the tendency is to stuff it. I would be lying if I said that there wasn't pain when I recall certain memories of Joel because I miss him deeply. But what's more important than the pain is to honor his life by never forgetting who he was. Sometimes it helps us to know our loved ones aren't forgotten. We know the world goes on, but we don't want who they were to ever be lost. We will never forget and we don't want to feel like everyone else has. If you are going to err it is better to err on the side of talking too much about him than not at all. If anyone ever has a random memory of my husband or a story to tell, I will always want to hear it. Talking about him is still my most favorite subject.
Joel. Joel. Sometimes I say his name out loud when I'm alone, just so I can hear someone say it. That name. His name. Never forgotten.
*picture from a Rock Band dress up night