I opened my email on a Sunday afternoon to find one from a business friend of mine, odd timing to say the least since he never emailed on weekends. But the subject line caught my attention far quicker than the 11:11 AM time stamp – “Loss of my son . . .”
He falls into the category of business friend because that’s how the friendship began. You know, you have school friends and church friends and work friends and all different types of friendships, depending upon how and where that friendship began. Ours started as a business relationship that morphed into a friendship as the years passed. Calls that once consisted only of a professional update began including conversations about work and family, politics and world news—those topics which are often discussed among friends. Will I ever go to his house for supper? Nope. Will he ever come to mine? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean the bond of friendship isn’t there.
His email was heartbreaking and I cannot begin to imagine the strength it took to compose. In a tragic, unforeseeable accident, the life of his firstborn had been taken. Very few details were provided, but the details were frankly none of our business. Those of us on the receiving end were advised of the death, given the funeral arrangements, and told when he would be back in the office. The time frame seemed so short and between each line I could feel the anguish of a father preparing to say goodbye to his son.
A few days later a mutual friend told of a conversation they’d had. In 48 hours there had been a trip to Jackson, Mississippi to sign paperwork so the body could be released—something a phone call would have accomplished. There had been a stop at his home to gather his personal belongings and then the trip to the funeral home to make the necessary arrangements, not to mention time spent at work tying up some loose ends. In other words, our friend was busy with the busyness of death. He was dealing with all the activity required by death but not with the loss, using that activity to stifle the pain. And my friend was concerned for our friend. No time was being taken to process the loss, and we both knew Death would demand his due. If the time was not given now it would most assuredly be demanded at some point in the future.
All of us have methods of coping with the unpleasant and traumatic events of life. For me it’s cleaning or playing hours of Text Twist. If I’m cleaning I’m physically distracted from the problem and exhausted when I finish; if I’m playing I‘m mentally focused or I’m starting over ‘cause I didn’t get the six letter word. For my friend, staying busy kept him from thinking and feeling. It kept the pain at bay but that also meant it delayed the onset of grief. When we do that, when we push grief aside and immerse ourselves in avoidance, we only delay the inevitable. Take the time, mourn the loss, feel the pain. Cry when you need to and never make excuses for the grief you are bearing. As I told my friend when he called several days after the service, there will always be bad days; they will just be farther and farther apart as time passes—but only if you allow yourself to grieve now.