From Our Readers—“When Someone You Love Dies”
THE April 22, 1985, issue of Awake! contained a four-part cover series entitled “When Someone You Love Dies.” Many readers wrote letters expressing their appreciation for the material. We would like to share some of their comments.
“Thank You for Letting Me Know I Am Normal”
Most of those who wrote expressed gratitude for learning that their feelings were not uncommon. They wrote:
“Our son Mark died in an accident last June. Words can’t express how a mother feels. He was my friend as well as my son. The Awake! helped me to realize that my feelings are normal.”
—A. D., Nebraska
“A couple of weeks after this article came out my father passed away. I didn’t know why I was feeling all the emotions that I did or how to handle them. Then I read these articles and realized that what I was feeling was not uncommon. Every time I feel down, I just pick up this Awake! and read it over and over. By doing this, I get comfort, and I’m able to go on.”
—D. R., Pennsylvania
“My husband died in October of 1983. I felt guilty about some of the feelings I had. I now appreciate that even though I’m not proud of such feelings, they were not unusual or uncommon. Thank you so much for the comforting information.”
—L. B., Nebraska
One reader, whose 15-year-old son died some years ago, summed up her feelings this way: “Thank you for letting me know I am normal.”
—L. A., Connecticut
Some letters offered additional insight into the feelings and needs of bereaved ones.
“In the four years I have been a widow, I have not heard widows mentioned in prayer. Believe me, now I always include in my prayers the many widows and any who have lost loved ones in death. It is so completely devastating.”
—L. B., California
“In March my son David died of a massive brain hemorrhage. My doctor gave me tablets to take three times a day—plus one for sleep at night. Although I know they were given to me in kindness and sympathy, I quickly found myself watching the clock, hoping the next tablet would be due. It was awful, and eventually I confessed to my husband how I felt. On his advice, I put them all into the toilet and flushed them away. The articles in Awake! were of great help to both my family and me. Would you be so kind, at some future date, to write a warning of the dangers of tablets to overcome stress and grief?”
—I. S., England
“What I liked most about the articles was how they dealt with others and what they should do and perhaps should not do. Many within the congregation had withdrawn from me because of my negative reactions. It was very hard for me and for them too! So I hope the articles will help them to be able to help me now.”
—R. W., British Columbia
“Feelings I Didn’t Want to Feel”
It is not uncommon for a person to repress his grief, as a number of other letters confirmed.
“Someone I dearly loved died, and I suppressed all the feelings of sorrow. Your articles opened up feelings that I had bottled up for 15 years since his death. They are feelings I didn’t want to feel because of the deep pain they would cause. I can see now that one needs to express these feelings openly at the time of death.”
—R. M., Ohio
“My father died in October 1984, and not until I read this magazine did I let out my feelings. The next two nights, when I went to bed, I prayed to Jehovah, and I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I have to thank Jehovah and ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ for the relief I feel now. Thank you!”
—K. B., Ohio
Some had evidently repressed their grief because they felt it would be wrong for a Christian to grieve. They wrote:
“Prior to reading your articles, I felt that my grief showed a lack of faith in Jehovah God’s promise of the resurrection. I do hope to see my mother again, but your articles helped me to appreciate that grief is acceptable for a Christian.”
—T. M., Kansas
“What was helpful to me is to know that it’s all right to grieve. I firmly believe in the resurrection, and I thought it would be wrong to express my grief in front of others, thinking I would give them reason to doubt that I had such a firm hope. The last article helped me to see that our hope does not eliminate the pain, but it does make it easier to bear.”
—C. B., New Jersey
That it’s not unchristian to grieve can be seen from the example of Jesus Christ himself, who when his dear friend Lazarus died “gave way to tears.” And this despite the fact that Jesus was shortly to raise Lazarus from the dead!—John 11:33-44.
Others Can Help
A number of readers expressed appreciation for the suggestions on how to help those who are bereaved.
“A few weeks ago a good friend’s father died suddenly, unexpectedly, at home. I sent her a card inviting her for a visit. I kept thinking how awkward I would feel if she talked about her father. A few days before her visit, lo and behold, our Awake! came in the mail with the article ‘How Others Can Help.’ I read it several times! As best I could, I did what was suggested. It was a relaxed afternoon, and we talked with ease about her father and things we remembered. We even laughed. Thank you so much for those words at the right time.”
—K. E., Indiana
Bereaved ones appreciate it when others take some initiative, as shown by this touching letter from a reader whose husband died.
“Many said, ‘If there’s anything I can do, let me know.’ But one Christian sister did not ask. She went right into the bedroom, stripped the bed, and laundered the soiled linens. Another took bucket, water, and cleaning supplies and scrubbed the rug where my husband had vomited. These were true friends, and I shall never forget them. A few weeks later, one of the elders came over in his work clothes with his tools and said, ‘I know there must be something that needs fixing. What is it?’ How dear that man is to my heart for repairing the door that was hanging on a hinge and for fixing an electrical fixture!”
—E. L., Puerto Rico
What a Parent Feels
Indeed, one of the most tragic blows of all is the death of a child. Some readers confirmed how devastating that can be.
“Thank you so much for the April 22 issue of the Awake! It has been a great comfort to me. You see, I found out on April 19 that the baby I am carrying had died. It was quite a shock. At this time I am still waiting to go into labor and deliver my baby. At least I know that the reactions I’ve experienced are normal, thanks to Jehovah’s organization.”
—J. H., Virginia
“Six years ago I lost my second child of seven weeks; it was born with multiple birth defects. Those articles pinpointed exactly how I felt and made me see that there are others who really understand what I went through. Thank you so much for finally putting into words what I myself felt but did not know how to express.”
—M. S., New York
“I would like to give a special thank you for your article ‘When Someone You Love Dies.’ My son Ricky was hit and killed by a car on September 28, 1984. He was only five years old. Four weeks after his accident, I started a Bible study with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has been helping me through this extremely difficult time. I think of Ricky every day, and I still have days when I sit and cry because I miss him so much. But now with Jehovah God’s loving guidance and by taking in accurate knowledge of the Bible, I have hope of one day seeing Ricky again. I would say to anyone who has lost a loved one, ‘Call upon one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to help you through it.’”
—F. P., Minnesota
Clearly, the death of someone you love is one of life’s greatest tragedies. Just knowing that what you’re feeling is not uncommon can be reassuring in itself. In addition, expressing, not repressing, your feelings can also help. And, as the above letter well expressed, great comfort comes from the Bible-based hope that “the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear [Jesus’] voice and come out.”—John 5:28, 29.
[Box on page 27]
Cancer Support Group Finds Awake! Helpful
In response to the Awake! series “When Someone You Love Dies,” the following letter was received from the program director of a cancer support program.
“CancerShare is a one-on-one volunteer support program for cancer patients and their families. We often receive calls from people who are grieving the loss of loved ones, and we try to help by sending them literature on grief and by referring them to bereavement-support groups.
“There are four articles in the April 22, 1985, issue of Awake! that would be extremely helpful for those who are grieving: ‘When Someone You Love Dies’; ‘What a Parent Feels’; ‘How Others Can Help’; and ‘How You Can Cope’. Would it be possible for CancerShare to use all or part of these articles, giving credit to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as the source, to help people who are grieving?”
Permission was gladly granted in this instance.