August 30 is National Grief Awareness Day. In a way, it is an odd thing to commemorate. When a person is grieving, are they not aware of that painful fact every single moment of every single day? Every day for them is “Grief Awareness Day.” So why make this a day to commemorate what is obvious for the grieving person?
Perhaps the best answer to that question is that Grief Awareness Day is not for the grieving person, but rather for the rest of us who go through our lives, sometimes blissfully unaware of the pain others face on a daily basis. It is a reminder to slow down, recognize the suffering of others, and be more intentional about our role as a support as others face the unthinkable.
Anyone who has lost a loved one remembers the “cycle of support” that accompanies loss. During those early days, you feel numb as a seemingly nonstop traffic of people surround you to offer support. During those early weeks, friends and family may bring boat loads of food to fill your freezer. Cards pour through the mail, offering condolences. Family and friends attend the services and may even stick around to support you through the early days. But eventually, all that fades, and you are left alone with your memories and your grief, with only occasional gestures of awkward support. Holidays and special anniversaries may be visited with a slight upswing of support, as these are notably more difficult days, but you are soon left alone again with the day by day blanket of grief weighing upon you.
National Grief Awareness Day reminds us to open our eyes to the grieving among us, to be intentional in our outreach and love to those who may be feeling lost and lonely in their grief. It reminds us to step out or our own comfort zone to come alongside those who are grieving and be a comforting presence in their lives. And it should encourage us to be that kind of companion, not just a single day out of the year, but every day, as grief is not confined to simply a single day.
This year, as you go about your day, I encourage you to open your eyes and your heart to those hurting around you. Let this be the beginning of a practice of companioning with those who grieve – not just on a few limited days out of the year, but every day.