Dealing With Death

By Carl Hairston

Death is something that all of us deal with differently. Some of us can be very open, some of us hide our feelings, and some move on like nothing happened. As a male, especially a black male, we are expected to be strong, and to some that strength means hiding your emotions. But it shouldn’t be that way. It’s ok to be upset and emotional with death, just like it’s ok to be overjoyed with a wedding or a birth.

Unfortunately I’ve had to deal with an inordinate amount of death in my family the past two years. Each family member was close to me, in a different way. So subsequently I handled each death differently. Candidly, I can’t sit here and tell you exactly how to respond to death. I’m not an expert. However, I’ve found a few things that are helpful to me, that I would suggest to anyone.

Because I’ve dealt with death I’ve also seen plenty of different responses from friends. At our age you could be someone who really has never dealt with the death of a loved one, or you could have dealt with it plenty. However, being there for a friend is something we aren’t taught how to do. Our generation is built on technology. So we think that shooting off a quick condolence text will be good. Yea, that’s ok for a distant friend. But for a close friend? Need to do a little better. You can learn a lot about how close you are with someone when you are grieving. A large portion of being a great friend is being there for your boy when they are struggling. So I’ll provide a couple of tips for that as well.

Handling Grief

  • TALK!
    • There is obviously a time when you need to quietly reflect. But bottling up grief is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. For me, I just needed time. Sometimes I wanted to sit and reflect quietly. Other times I wanted to laugh about old times. You’re going to be all over the place and that’s ok.
  • Scripture
    • I always find my strength in leaning on God, in any difficult times. This is no different. Here are a couple of verses that help me during grief.
      • Isaiah 41:10
      • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
      • 1 Corinthians 15: 52-54
      • Revelation 21:4
  • Reminisce
    • I like to remember stories of my loved ones. Sitting around with family reminiscing on funny times, vacations, outings, etc. would always bring a smile to my face. Whatever made you love the person so much, remember that.

Handling the Grief of a Friend

  • Acknowledge
    • The worst thing a friend can do is act like nothing happened, and just hold normal conversation. Acknowledge that your friend is grieving. Tell them you are thinking about their family and that you care. If you truly knew their loved one, share a story about what they meant to you and how you will always remember them. I had a good friend send me a story about my grandmother when she passed. It touched me so deeply that I shared that story when I spoke at her funeral. You never know how much that small message can mean to someone.
  • Ask
    • Find out what you can do to help. It might be nothing at all. They may just need you for a laugh. They may want to tell stories. Sometimes just being around the house helps, which brings me to my next point.
  • Visit
    • It’s traditional to have people over your house leading up to the funeral. Most of the time these aren’t very sad gatherings, just time for friends and family to express their condolences. Usually there will be food (sometimes adult beverages) at the house. Bring by something useful like plates, or cups, toilet tissue, etc. You basically want to make sure the family doesn’t have to spend time buying items for the influx of guests they will have coming over. I suggest chicken wings or Krispy Kreme doughnuts; because Lord knows you can never go wrong with either.

Death is one of the most difficult things in this life to deal with. Unlike so many other situations, it is final. And that conclusion is tough to swallow. I was taught a long time ago that if you live your life the right way, then when that day comes you’ll be off to a land where there are no more tears and no more sadness. As tough as it may be, try to keep that in mind when you are grieving. It takes time, and there will always be an unfillable void, but our time on Earth is temporary. Use your pain to encourage yourself to live a purpose filled life. Have that goal list you’ve been neglecting? Go after it now. A dream trip with the family? Plan it now. Create those memories now, which will last you a lifetime. Make sure you fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.


Photo Credit: Lee Chapman