Why Staying in Your 'Place' Isn't an Option

I am here to ask you to reach out to someone today. This is what I can muster with the death of a loved one sitting heavy on my heart.

On March 2 I lost someone who affected my life so profoundly, who understood me so fully, that it will be a long time before I even believe it’s real.

But as I write this, I can tell you what I have already learned: We need to reach out to grieving people even when we’re afraid because we don’t know what to say or want to respect their need for privacy.

I was always one of those people who felt I should stay in my ‘place’ and not impose myself on someone who was devastated by loss. But what has become so clear to me now is that the phone calls, the emails, and the Facebook posts are an immense help and comfort.

This involves knowing our own power and what our simple words and gestures can bring to another human being. We must have the self-esteem to realize that “I’m so sorry” carries weight, that even if the bereaved person doesn’t want to talk now, she might later so “call me any time, day or night” is gold. Even better, hearing that from a dozen people means no matter what situation she finds herself in, she has a go-to option.

I know. I’m her.

It used to be that Facebook was mostly fun, but a little bit shallow and all the jokes were about how no one wants to know what someone had for lunch. Or, why do we need to communicate with so-and-so from high school or a former co-worker when we’ve been just fine without the contact all these years?

I’ll tell you why. Because that woman who worked a few cubicles away that you had a nice rapport with a dozen years ago may be the one who writes to you with advice that fills you with glorious relief for even a moment. The person you connected with even fleetingly at some point might now be the one to recommend just the right book for when you’re ready to seek answers from someone else’s written word.

Because of sheer volume, responses to posts on Facebook can be where you go again and again to breathe your way through a tough moment, to divert you for a little while as it all sinks in. It augments all the rest of it, the friends and family who are physically there and whose voices and hugs bring much-needed love.

If I am any kind of life coach, I have to not only be with experiences but deconstruct them so that I can pass on the wisdom and insights gleaned. Sometimes this happens quickly, sometimes it’s a process. I trust that messages will continue to pour out of this loss, but what I am writing here today is one I got immediately. It has been striking to have my phone ringing so much that my land line battery died while talking to a friend in Texas.

Isn’t that extraordinary? Love pushing a battery to its limits? A line sizzling with emotion and then fizzling from exhaustion strikes me as so poignant.

My loved one was the subject of a Game Plan column nearly two years ago . It’s how we met. His passion and reach were immense and he was particularly good at what I describe here – the gesture that made people feel cared for. He didn’t have that hesitation and on several occasions he talked me through mine. He wanted to understand what might hold me back from expressing my sorrow for another because it came so naturally to him.

And while my focus here today might be on doing this in sad times, my strong suggestion holds true – of course – in happy times, too. Ask anybody who has experienced an outpouring of birthday love on Facebook if that isn’t pause for gratitude and a refocus on priorities. It is community love, concentrated, intense, reverberating.

Reach out, people. Really.

This sweet man I am remembering here would be so gratified to know my message in his passing is to encourage people to squeeze a hand, say a kind word, work through discomfort for another, be there for someone.

This one’s for you, Kevin O’Sullivan. I learned from the best.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.