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Moving forward into the life you create in the wake of loss

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Say Their Names

A man is not dead while his name is still spoken. Terry Pratchett

Soon after Jimmy died, the ugly reality of all that was lost started to overwhelm me. Never again would Jimmy call me on the way home from a religious studies class, brimming with excitement about what he’d just learned. Never again would my favorite cinephile text me the name of a new indie film that he wanted us to see the next time we were together. Never again would my full grown son drop into my lap, wrap his arms around me and say, “I love you … so much.”

Anyone who’s lost someone dear to them knows that these blows and horrible realizations just keep coming for months, if not years. We are prepared to a certain extent for the more obvious losses — one less chair at the Thanksgiving table, no graduations or grandchildren, no longer being able to call Mom about our crises or our triumphs. Crushing? Absolutely. But at least for me, it’s the small, ordinary moments lost that bring the most pain. Black holes and silence. So much silence.

That’s what makes the people who lean into that darkness so special. The ones who remember our loved ones long after they’re gone. The ones who send us a text or note when they are reminded of our dead beloved. The ones who continue to say their names.

Susie standing on Pikes Peak wearing her JimmySTRONG shirt

Photo of Jimmy in his Stanford bike jersey wearing his LIVESTRONG cap, posted on Creative Counseling's Facebook page with the quote "Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard." Kate Bowler

When you say our loved one’s names, you aren’t reminding us that our son, our mother, our brother is dead. We’re already thinking about them all the time. What you’re doing is telling us that you’re thinking about our beloveds, too. That our loved ones matter. That you remember them still.

Say their names. Ask about how they lived, who they were, what they loved. The greatest gift you can give a grieving soul is to help make sure their loved ones’ names are still spoken.

Photo of Jimmy wearing a yellow sweatshirt standing in the middle of a field of sunflowers with a message from Howard about how much he misses him.



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