Lost Loved Ones

Losing a loved one is always hard, but dealing with it during the holidays can be especially difficult. Since the holidays bring families together, many times that seems to be when someone is missed the most. Unfortunately, I have lost both of my grandfathers. Both were very strong, loving, Christian men.

When it comes to the holidays, though, my Grandpa Reaves seems to be the most influential. My Papaw Reaves was a minister, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a farmer. I really don’t think there was very much he couldn’t do. Papaw loved the holidays. He always loved it when we were all together, but at Christmas he seemed to be even more cheerful. I will never forget him coming in with the video camera to tape everything that happened. I remember the time he convinced all the grandkids that we saw Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer out his back door so we had to go to bed or Santa would not leave presents.

Papaw died of cancer in July of 1999. I was 16. I know every day that part of him is in me. My memories of him will live on through me and my son and hopefully for generations to come. I was very close to my grandparents. Growing up, my sister and I spent almost every summer at their house. We went on vacations with them, and to this day my Grandma is one of my biggest fans. I don’t know where I would be without her love and support. But when Papaw died, it seemed as though for a few days, nothing mattered.

At first it seemed so surreal. We lived rather far away and my mom had flown to Missouri to be with my grandparents because we knew Papaw was ill. Unfortunately, Papaw passed away before her plane landed. The next week was all slow motion. I remember packing to drive the long distance to Missouri. I know I was at the viewing and the funeral, but I could not tell you what was said, or who was there.

My sister and I stayed for a week with my grandma after everyone else had gone home. It was so weird being in the house without him there. Seeing the pain on my grandma’s face and walking through the yard where he used to garden just didn’t seem fair. He was only 65. There was so much I wanted him to see. I wanted him to see me get married and have a family. I wanted him to do for my children the things he had so wonderfully done for me.

As time passed, I slowly began to realize that all I had thought about was how much his death was affecting my life. What about my mom, who had just lost her father, or my grandma, who had lost her husband? Being a wife now, I can’t imagine the pain she was going through. I know when we stayed with her after he died, there must have been so many times when she just wanted to stay in bed and cry, but didn’t because we were there.

Some people are able to cope with a loss by talking about it. Find a friend, a parent, or even a school counselor if you feel you need to talk. Remember the good things about that person. Focus on how you can show others the same love that person showed you. Look through old pictures when you need to. Shortly after Papaw passed, my grandma gave me a picture of him on his tractor help me remember him.

When my paternal grandfather died in June of this year after an extended illness, a member of the family told me that she had already forgotten some of the things she loved about him––his smell, his laugh. That can happen. I know I have forgotten things about Papaw Reaves, but then I will pass someone who smells like him and I will remember his scent. Just remember that your memories don’t have to be forced. Little things that you loved about them may seem forgotten but sometimes something will happen, a gesture or smell, and you will think of that person.

One of the difficult parts for some is talking to people who have recently lost a loved one. What should you say? Remember that everyone is different. You don’t have to say anything. Sometimes just a card saying that you are thinking and praying for them means a lot. Perhaps if it is someone who is widowed, spend time with them.

Grieving is a process, but it is a different process for each of us. Some of us cry, some get angry, and some just want to be alone. While I can’t tell you how you should grieve, I can tell you that God will make your grieving easier. He alone can heal that pain and give you peace to accept His will. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

By Sarah J. Ancheta

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