After the Funeral

Posted by on Mar 18, 2017 in Blog, Comfort

The Grieving Need You Most After the Funeral

My father died suddenly while on vacation three years ago. The event rattled the bedrock of my life in ways that are difficult to describe, and taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way.

One of the truths I discovered, is that when you lose someone you love—people show up.

Almost immediately they surround you with social media condolences and texts and visits and meals and flowers. They come with good hearts, with genuine compassion, and they truly want to support you in those moments. The problem, is that you’re neither prepared nor particularly helped by the volume then.

The early days of grief are a hazy, dizzying, moment by moment response to a trauma that your mind simply can’t wrap itself around. You are, what I like to call a Grief Zombie; outwardly moving but barely there. You aren’t really functioning normally by any reasonable measurement, and so that huge crush of people is like diverting thousands of cars into a one lane back road—it all overwhelms the system. You can’t absorb it all. Often it actually hurts.

This usually happens until the day of the funeral, when almost immediately the flood of support begins to subside. Over the coming days the calls and visits gradually become less frequent as people begin to return to their normal lives already in progress—right about the time the bottom drops out for you.

Just as the shock begins to wear off and the haze is lifted and you start to feel the full gravity of the loss; just as you get a clear look at the massive crater in your heart—you find yourself alone.

People don’t leave you because they’re callous or unconcerned, they’re just unaware. Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is, and so they stay up until the funeral and imagine that when the service ends, that somehow you too can move ahead; that there is some finishing to your mourning.

That’s the thing about grief that you learn as you grieve: that it has no shelf life; that you will grieve as long as you breathe, which is far after the memorial service and long after most people are prepared to stay. Again, they still love you dearly, they just have their own roads to walk.

Sometimes people leave because they suddenly feel estranged by the death. They may have been used to knowing you as part of a couple or as a family, and they aren’t able to navigate the new dynamic the loss has created. They simply don’t know how to relate to you the way they once did, and so they withdraw.

Or sometimes people see you from a distance and mistake your visible stability for the absence of need, as if the fact that you’re functioning in public doesn’t mean you don’t fall apart all the time when you’re alone—and you do. We all carry the grief as bravely and competently as we can in public, but none of us are strong enough to shoulder it alone. People often say of a grieving person, “They’re so strong”, but they’re not. They’re doing what they have to in order to survive. They need you to come alongside them.  

Other times people avoid you because they believe that they will say the wrong thing; that somehow they will remind you of your loved one and cause you unnecessary pain. Trust me, the grieving don’t lack for reminders. They are intimately aware of the absence in their lives, and you acknowledging it actually makes them feel better. It gives them consent to live with the grief, and to know that they can be both wounded and normal.

Friends, what I’m saying is that it’s wonderful to be present for people when tragedy occurs. It’s a beautiful thing to express your love and support for those you love in any way you feel is right in those first few days. It does matter. No compassion is ever wasted.

But if there’s anything I would tell you, as someone who’s walked through the Grief Valley, is that the time your presence is most needed and most powerful, is in those days and weeks and months and years after the funeral; when most people have withdrawn and the road is most isolating. It is in the countless ordinary moments that follow, when grief sucker punches you and you again feel it all fully.

It’s three years since I lost my father, and on many days the pain is as present and profound as that first day.

Remind yourself to reach out to people long after the services and memorials have concluded. 

Death is a date in the calendar, but grief is the calendar.


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Helping a Grieving Parent Overcome the Death of a Child Can be a Long Term Committment

Posted by on Jun 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

Loss of a Child    The loss of a child can be one of the most difficult losses.  Even the Bible sees it as a severe experience.  “…make mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation…” (Jeremiah 6:26b)

Helping a friend or relative grieving the loss of a child may be a long-term commitment.  Unlike other losses, a child’s loss returns to the mind of the parent in a fresh way when unmet milestones come along for the life that was cut short.  You can be most helpful by supporting these times of prolonged grief.  Just remembering with the parent can help soothe a broken heart at the child’s birthday or death date.  A card or text could go a long way to add comfort.

Loss is indeed a part of our human existence.  Helping each other through these normal times increases our bonds to each other and fulfills a purpose for us being in each other’s lives.


With encouragement,

David Knapp

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Grief Complicated by Guilt

Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in Blog, Comfort, Grief Relief

Guilt can complicate the grieving process and even extend it.

At the end of the concert I noticed the gentleman sitting beside me had a sweatshirt on indicating he was from the same state I grew up in.  So I asked him what part he was from.  As it turned out he was living not more than 30 minutes from where I grew up.

Early in the conversation he made it known that his daughter had died.  He and his wife had consequently moved to their present home to be near her grave.  I later learned that this all had happened over 5 years earlier.  As I listened he unfolded his pain.  A week before the daughter’s fatal car wreck she had been raped and the dad felt he could have done something to prevent it.  Now his guilt was keeping the grieving process very much alive.  I encouraged him to find someone he could talk it through with.  He assured me a local pastor was available.

Listening well to the grieving can often aid in your ability to help them heal by watching for other issues that could be enhancing their grief.

Pressing on,

David Knapp

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