By Larry Dawalt, BCC, CT
‘When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don't be afraid of the dark.’
Chances are many of you remember those opening lines of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from the 1945 musical ‘Carousel.’ The song has been recorded over 250 times by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra and Elvis Pressley to Josh Groban and opera star Renee Fleming, who offered a stunning rendition as part of the first inauguration of President Barack Obama.
‘Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain…’
‘Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk along- you’ll never walk alone.’
While it is not as bad as ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ can be a difficult song to hear for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one- whether around the holidays or any other time of the year. Loneliness is a significant part of grief and it is one of the most difficult to combat. And yes, I meant to use the word ‘combat’ because dealing with loneliness can be a battle. Acquaintances and even friends mean well when they say, ‘just get out there and be around people and you won’t be lonely’ but those words aren’t comforting. As a matter of fact, most people who are grieving can be in a large crowd and still feel all alone. But it’s the emptiness of a previously occupied chair, seat at the kitchen table, or bed that hurts the most.
Visits from family and friends can help. Cards and emails are valuable, too.
Even more important is some sort of steady correspondence with someone who has shared a similar experience. In this age of worldwide communication, opportunities for maintaining relationships across the miles abound at the touch of a computer keyboard or a smartphone. It is certainly not the same as a long visit together, but it helps- especially around the holidays as you share memories that may be both happy and painful.
So, reach out as best you can. You may not be in each other’s physical presence, yet knowing someone is always out there can give you ‘hope in your heart’ and remind you that you aren’t walking alone.
Larry Dawalt is Senior Director of Spiritual & Grief Care Services for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. If you have questions or comments about this article, the Bereavement Bulletin or the HPCCR grief program in general, you may contact him at dawaltL@hpccr.org.