An Empty Chair – gone from here but never forgotten…

alumni marching band

I went to the parade this year in my small hometown.  Normally we do not make it to the parade but this year was different.  The high school alumni marching band was in the parade as they usually are… folks from several classes (mainly from the 60’s and 70’s) have done this every year but this year was different… they had an empty chair… a chair in memory of our friend Kimmy Kay, who died a couple of years ago from breast cancer.

How awesome to not forget!   When you come from a small town and someone dies (especially those who are young), it is felt so deeply by all of us because we are such a small community.  When our small town has its annual summer Days,  it is the time when we all come back together that one weekend a year to celebrate our friendships that were born many years ago.

The year Kimmy died, she was able to get up on the float in August even though she was struggling with a cancer that just was not going to let go and ultimately led to her death in October.  I missed the parade that year but everyone who did spoke of how happy she was to be on the float and to be a part of the community – surrounded by so many who love her.  She always loved to be a part of the parade… a gal so full of life with a big old smile on her face… a gal who brought joy to all of us who knew her.

It was good to watch the parade go by, see old friends and remember Kimmy Kay…

So how can people get through grief?  We know that we all go through the stages of grief and for each of us, we go through the stages at different paces…, maybe we  linger in one stage longer than others  based upon who we are and our own personal coping skills.

I believe that one of the most powerful ways to move  forward through grief is to remember… to never forget the person we loved and miss.  To remember all the times spent together, what that person brought to this earth in terms of gifts and talents… to remember how they loved and how much we loved them.

It might be helpful to find something tangible… an object… that reminds you of the person who died.  When your eyes  glance upon that one thing, you remember them and their spirit can surround you… bringing you comfort… bringing you joy as you think of the good times… and bringing you peace.

Grief is not easy.  It is not easy to go through the process of feeling so sad… so dark… and so lonely when you can not physically talk or see the person.  However, grief does not have to totally change our world into a negative place.  Grief is a transition and anytime we are going through a life transition, finding concrete actions to help us move through the phases of grief to get to a better space emotionally is really quite powerful.  Taking action… moving forward…

I have a coaching client who has a photograph on her cell phone of her child who died.  A beautiful picture of her family… everyone smiling.  She can easily pull up that picture on her phone when she is feeling sad or angry and the picture helps her to smile through the sadness and anger.

I have some memorial cards with the picture of the person who died.  The pictures are in my office and on my fridge.  Whenever my eyes scan over one of those pictures… I remember… and I smile, feeling blessed and thankful that person was a part of my life.

No, grief is not easy nor should it be… we are human… we care… and we feel the pain.  It is important to feel pain otherwise we become numb and that is no way to live…

So last weekend was a celebration… a celebration to  remember Kimmy Kay.  Watching her fellow marching band friends having so much fun and beaming from ear to ear was awesome to see from the sidelines. Kimmy’s chair was not a sad empty chair… it was a chair was surrounded by life… Kimmy Kay’s life…,  Kimmy Kay’s spirit…  all of our spirits.

If you find yourself in the midst of grief,  please remember there is not timetable for your grief and be okay with being sad, angry and lonely at times.  However if you are ready to transition through your grief to get to a new normal which will also bring you happiness,  know that there are many tools and resources to support you in creating an action plan to move powerfully through your grief.  Start by celebrating the life of the person you loved and know that they are never gone…  they are never forgotten…  just like that empty chair reminding us that Kimmy Kay will always be with us…

What are some tangible ways that you remember someone close to you who has died?

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