I’ve mentioned it before in these weekly editorials and I am going to say it again. I enjoy getting to know the many amazing people who live in our community. I meet so many individuals who work hard, give more than they have and strive to make a positive change in the world. This week, I was fortunate to meet two Saint Joseph’s College students - Adrienne Dolley and April Benak (see article on the Front Page for their story).
As a result, I often make new friends who land into my lot of kindred spirits. “You are my soul sister, lady!”, one interviewee told me with zest two years ago after we met for the first time.
That person was Stephanie Lay, the owner of Maine Tex Grilled Salsa. (Read her story at www.frontpage.thewindhameagle.com/2018/03/like-summer-in-jar-maine-tex-grilled.html)
And soul sisters it turned out we were. We would sit on the dock by the lake, gather from time to time for laughter over a couple of beers when our busy schedules would allow. It was our busy schedules, however, that got in our way too often.
“It’s never going to slow down for us – so let’s get together again soon,” was the last thing she said to me on a phone call three weeks ago. As many know, she passed away unexpectedly this past weekend.
This isn’t the only sadness we have experienced in the Sebago Lakes communities. We have also heard about the tragic story of Sarah McCarthy. Although I never knew her, I know of people who did. It’s been a tough week of grieving for many of us.
Much like I stumble onto new friendship, I sometimes stagger in my approach to sorrow - both for myself and in the being there for others. Where does one begin to help people who face devastating loss? It’s never easy to know how to be there or what to say. Even if we’ve experienced tragedy ourselves, grieving is a bit like snowflakes - each person’s process is different. Although it is my tendency to stumble through life, floundering through the territory of grief can have detrimental effects on those we care about.
If you, like me, hope to support those who need it most, I have found a list of helpful ways that may assist us both during times like this. The following is a list of suggestions printed in Harvard Health Publishing from Harvard Medical School:
Name names. Don't be afraid to mention the deceased. It won't make your friend any sadder, although it may prompt tears. It's terrible to feel that someone you love must forever be expunged from memory and conversation.
Don't ask, "How are you?" Instead try, "How are you feeling today?"
Offer hope. Be careful about being too glib, though. Instead of saying something like: “Everything happens for a reason,” perhaps say something like: "You will grieve for as long as you need to, but you are a strong person, and will find your way through this."
Listen well instead of advising. Often, people work through grief and trauma by telling their story over and over. Unless you are asked for your advice, don't be quick to offer it. Frequently, those who are grieving really wish others would just listen.
Avoid judgments. You may wish he or she would move on, but you can't speed the process or even ensure that it happens. Let your friend heal at the pace that feels right and in his or her own manner.
It may seem ironic coming from someone who attends church almost every Sunday, but I’m not much of the praying type. But if I was asked to utter one prayer as we all slide through days of sadness, it would have be “The Clown’s Prayer”
“As I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more cheer than gloom, spread more cheer than despair. Never let me become so indifferent, that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child, or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget momentarily, all the unpleasantness in their lives…..”