People find many different ways to deal with grief and process loss. There are as many different ways to cope as there are people, but there’s one constant: It’s difficult.
There are days when you are holding it together, there are days when you fall apart. Sometimes you think you have answers, and then they melt away in an instant.
In our culture we tend to hide our struggles — we don’t want the world to see us suffer or think of us as weak. We don’t want to have to tell someone why we’re crying because that won’t change the situation and will force us to face our loss all over again.
Many don’t know how to comfort their grieving friends. Should they give them space? Should they spend more time with them? What can they do to help?
One woman, an author named Diane “Stefano” Register, who experienced tragedy in the form of her husband’s cancer diagnosis, has written extensively on the subject. She wrote in to Love What Matters to recount a small act of kindness that had a profound impact on her.
“One day, I was on my way somewhere and knew I needed to stop for coffee. I don’t remember what the particular problem was at that moment but, like most days, I was overwhelmed. I was on the phone and talking it through, when the person on the other line said something that struck me enough to lose it right there. I could barely catch my breath and the ugly crying started.”
“The problem was, I was stuck in the coffee line. At Dutch Brothers. The one place where all the workers are young, happy and jamming out to music.”
She couldn’t just get out of line at that point. Blocked in, she decided to pull up to the window anyway and face the young lady who would take her order.
Register explained how she’d met the girl briefly before since she was a regular customer, but it was enough for the girl to remember what her order was. She didn’t ask anything, didn’t say anything, just handed Register her usual — with an added feature.
“I tried to smile when I took it from her and drove away and finished my call. By this time, I had pulled into a parking stall and was trying to regain my composure. I reached for my iced coffee, and when I looked down in the cup holder, I saw it.”
“A pink straw, and the words ‘We love you’ written around it.”
“Ugly crying again.”
“This girl barely knew me,” she continued. “I don’t even think at the time she knew my story. All she knew was that at that moment, I was hurting. She couldn’t fix it. We couldn’t talk about it. She couldn’t hug me. So she used the only tool she had in that instance – a pen, and a pink straw.”
It was unexpected, but very well-received. A piece of pink plastic and some marker swipes were a welcome gift to Register, who uses the story to encourage others in the same way she was encouraged.
“She wanted me to know I wasn’t alone,” she wrote. “And that whatever trial I was going through, that there were people out there who cared about me. That regardless of knowing all the details, they cared anyway.”
Now, Register takes that one small act of kindness with her wherever she goes.
“I visit a different Dutch Brothers now and that girl with the pink straw has moved on with her life. I don’t know what she’s doing now, but to me, she left a legacy. A legacy of kindness.”
“Simple acts of kindness is all it takes,” she wrote, in closing. “This small thing has literally changed my life, and I hope you remember that as you go on with yours. Whether you’re the giver or receiver, you can and you will make a difference by showing you care. How you do that is up to you, but find a way. Find a way to show somebody they’re not alone. Even if all you have is a pen and something to write on, you will never regret impacting a life. Give the gift of love. Give the gift of kindness.”
“I’m so thankful for mine.”
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