Death is part of living. We all know it is the capstone of each life and will happen to everyone eventually. However, when it happens suddenly, prematurely and in a brutal way, it is much harder on the family of the departed one.
We know, because our family experienced just such a loss a few weeks ago. Our beloved 17-year-old grandson, Devin, was brutally murdered by a coworker. The coworker asked him for a ride home from work and stabbed him to death on the way home. He then drove three miles out of town, dumped his body over a bridge into a ditch and took his car. The killer was found and is in jail on a first degree murder charge.
There is no way to express the sorrow our family is feeling, but through this tragedy, we have learned important lessons on how to deal with something this terrible. We share these with you hoping they will help others who face similar tragedies or have friends who may be going through it.
1. Rejoice with others in the goodness of your departed loved one
The small community where this tragedy happened has been amazing in honoring Devin. He was loved by many at his high school. He was a respected athlete and a drummer in the school band. He lived life fully. The kind comments of his many friends, teachers, coaches and employer have done wonders to heal his family members’ hearts.
The school held a candlelight vigil in his honor and nearly a thousand people attended. At the vigil, the coaches spoke and held up his jersey with the number 6 on it and said it would now be retired in his memory. Many other gestures have been made to honor him. The whole community has been mourning this tragedy.
People care. That’s why so many leave flowers and candles to honor the deceased person. When others care about you and your loved one, it is healing. Be comforted by every caring effort to honor him or her.
2. Put your arms around each other and let the tears flow
When family members mourn together, it helps in the healing process. It isn’t just a onetime event at the funeral. There will be many tears. There will be laughter as you remember the fun and funny times and then there will be more tears. That’s all part of the process. Allow each family member to mourn in his or her own way. Mourning is vital to healing.
The mother of a border patrol officer whose son was killed in the line of duty came to comfort us. She said healing takes time. Her son was killed four years ago and each one of her other children and grandchildren still shed tears as they share memories of him. Even though they have all gone on with their own lives, the moments they continue to share remembering their loved one are priceless and healing. Her visit brought comfort.
3. Accept the love offered from friends and family
When we lost our grandson, the expressions of love that came our way felt like the arms of heaven enveloping us. Two days after Devin’s death there was a knock at our door. There was a young adult neighbor standing there with tears flowing down her cheeks. She said, “I don’t know what to say, but I had to come. I love you.” She then handed us two specially wrapped cookies and said, “Here. Eat these and know how much I care.” We felt her love, and it helped.
Others donated money to help with expenses. Some brought food, flowers or sent cards. All brought love. Most didn’t know what to say and just hugged us. We now see more clearly what we can do to help others in such situations. It doesn’t take much to comfort the grieving.
4. Be forgiving
Devin’s father, our son, gave wise counsel to his grieving children. He knew that if they carried hate or revenge toward the man who killed their brother, it could negatively affect the rest of their lives. He counseled them to leave the punishments and justice to God and the judicial system and to just focus on how much they loved their brother.
“Let’s honor Devin,” he said, “by remembering him and not dwelling on his tragic death or be eaten up by thoughts of revenge or hatefulness.” His mother felt the same. Then he prayed for them to have the strength to do this. We witnessed how this brought comfort and magnified their love for one another.
5. Be comforted in knowing you will see your loved one again
Envision your deceased loved one in heavenly realms in the loving arms of the Savior, as well as family and friends who have preceded him or her in death. Death is not the end. Christ said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
We have no doubt we will see our dear grandson again. And it will be a glorious day. We have a certainty that fills our hearts with peace that he is in a beautiful place. We believe our grandson is working in his new heavenly home.