Sarah Stultz: Don’t be afraid to speak of those who died

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

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A friend of mine in our Kiwanis Club rang bells with me last week for the Salvation Army, when he asked me out of the blue if I still hang a stocking hanging for my daughter, Sophie, who died in 2016.

He, too, had experienced the loss of a child, and we have had a handful of conversations about it since my daughter died.

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I told him that we did — her stocking is hanging right on the fireplace next to the stockings for my me and my husband, her little brother and our dog.
My friend responded that it was the same for his child.

Earlier that day I had another friend send me a text message telling me that her daughter’s friend had died, and she instantly thought of me and Sophie. She went on to say she knows grief doesn’t expire.

I appreciate both of these friends, who remind me that they see me and that they haven’t forgotten Sophie.

These are two examples this week of people who have gone out of their way to bring up my sweet daughter at a time now — six years after her passing — when most people have moved on or are afraid to bring her up in the spoken word.

As uncomfortable as it may be to people to bring up hard things like this, it was comforting to this mama to hear these friends’ words spoken because they reassure me that she’s not forgotten.

This year has been a heavy one for many people I know in this community. There has been devastating loss, and it has been challenging.
Every time I see someone who has lost a child, my heart aches, and I recognize the pain that these individuals endure.

The pain can be debilitating some days, and some days you’re numb. Other days, when things seem to be going well, you are struck with something out of nowhere that reminds you of your child and then the tears flow.

And all of that is OK.

I also recognize that no two grief journeys are the same and that it is OK, too. And it is OK to find happiness even amongst your sorrows.
I encourage those of you who know someone who has experienced loss this year to not be afraid to speak with your friends about their loved ones who have died — whether it was a child, a parent, a sibling or a friend.

It may be hard, and it may bring tears, but it helps us grieve and to process the loss.

Focus on the positive memories as we move into the holidays, and keep the hope that you will see your loved ones again.

“Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect. It makes you human.” — Sarah Dessen

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.