Whatever age people are “supposed to be” when they die, most of us feel like it should be a good bit older than us! That’s why it seems so hard to face the death of someone who is our contemporary, who likes the same kind of music and remembers the same television shows.
When a contemporary dies, most of us experience our own grief and sense our own needs for care. At the same time, we want to provide care for others whom we assume must be hurting even more. The good news is that it is possible to receive the care offered by others while also caring for others. This mutual sharing of hurts and help is one characteristic of the sense of community for which most people long.
Siblings enjoy unique relationships, having shared both the good and the bad of growing up in the family home. Together, we laugh at the same memories and share the same stories. The sense of loss at a sibling’s death can be profound.
Coworkers sometimes become closer than family, in part because of the amount of time spent together. Few people — even in your family — spend as much time with you as those with whom you work. Sharing an office or working for many years on common projects can weld people together as friends as well as work associates.
The grief of friends for each other can also be profound. Because we choose friends, these people become our greatest confidants, supporters and cheerleaders. For most people, the death of a close friend leaves a giant hole in the heart.
Make sure to stay connected to supportive people. Family members, work associates and other friends can be enormously supportive in the experience of grief. But remember that some people do not understand the significance of non-family attachments and might wonder just why this loss is such “a big deal.” Well-meaning people sometimes don’t comprehend the significance of a friend, coworker or sibling’s death, contributing to even greater isolation for the bereaved person.
Don’t forget to pay attention to memorial opportunities. Prioritize your schedule to attend and participate in the funeral or memorial service. Look for opportunities to memorialize this person through sending flowers or making contributions in his or her memory. And remember that in addition to the funeral activities in the early days after the death, some cultures create important memorial opportunities at intervals through the first year and perhaps on the anniversary of the death thereafter.
Be certain that you take some time for yourself, as well. One difficulty of facing the death of a sibling, coworker or friend is that these people are often near our own age, forcing us to consider our own mortality. As you work through this loss, It is always good to take time to think about what characteristics you hope people will remember about you and to reevaluate your own priorities.