UU Church Today, Spirituality & Theology, Society & Culture, Practice & Voice

How do We Deal with the Death of a Loved One?

One of the hardest things a person will ever have to do is to deal with the death of someone they love. It is especially hard for a parent to deal with the death of a child, even when the child is an adult. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around. As people always point out, we have words for an orphan and a widow, but none for a parent who has lost a child. And when the child has taken his or her own life, it is especially hard to handle. Last summer I lost my son, Ryan, a month before his thirty-third birthday. He had struggled with addiction and mental illness and couldn’t handle it anymore. I found him hanging in the closet one morning. This is what I wrote that day: 

Good Bye, My Son 

I will always love you. 

Your heart was good but your life was hard, and far too short. 

I will miss you more than you can know. 

I long to hear your voice and see your face. Never more again. 

I wish that I could have loved you more, helped you more, done more for you. 

Your friends and family will always remember you. You were loved by so many. 

Rest in peace, beloved Son. God bless and keep you forever more. Amen. 

It was printed on the back of the program at his funeral. Because of COVID, only fifteen people could attend. The sanctuary would have been full of the people who loved him any other time. Barbara Prose, the minister, preached a lovely eulogy. It was a beautiful service. 

Our senior minister, Marlin Lavanhar, had our Care Team, of which I am a member, do an exercise about dealing with grief. We were to write a letter to someone we’d lost, and then write a letter from them in return. This is what I wrote: 

Dear Ryan, 
I wish I had told you how much I loved you. I wish I had told you I didn’t want to lose you. I wish I had asked you if you would go to the hospital with me. Maybe you would have said yes, and we could have driven to the hospital to get you the help that you needed. If you said no, then I would have said, I’ll have to call 911, and you won’t like that. Maybe then you would have agreed to go. If not, I would’ve called 911. When they came, I would tell them what you said, that you couldn’t take it anymore and you were going to kill yourself. Maybe they could have talked you into going. Maybe they would have taken you anyway. The important thing was to get you into treatment. Hopefully, this time they would not have let you go after three days. Maybe they would have kept you in Laureate. That’s what you needed, long term in-patient treatment with antipsychotic medication, group therapy, and suicide watch. I feel like I failed you, Ryan. I just treated it as another episode and gave you wine to calm you down. In the morning, you said you were sorry you scared me. I thought the crisis had resolved itself. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that you were serious about ending your pain. Please forgive me. 


Dear Dad, 
I know you always loved me. You saved me by adopting me, and Craig. My life took a wrong turn when I got into drugs. It did something to my mind. I know you thought I was crazy and didn’t believe me about people accusing me and controlling me with wires in the house. But I believed it. That was real to me. If you had asked me to go to the hospital, I would have said no. I didn’t want to get locked up again. If you had called 911, I would have told them I really didn’t want to kill myself. I could have talked my way out of it. Just know that you did all you could for me. I know that you will always love me, and I will love you. I am sorry I won’t see my nephew, Luke. Tell Craig I love him and am sorry for what I did. I wanted him to forgive me but he never did. He told me he wanted me to do better and I tried, but I could never get my life together. Too many things were tormenting me. I couldn’t stand the pain. I had to end it. I’m sorry you had to find me the way you did. I am glad you moved on and started over.


If you ever have to deal with the death of someone close to you, someone you love and care for, it may help you to deal with your grief and your guilt to talk to the one you have lost as if they were still there. Let you soul heal and your spirit rest. Blessed be. 

Sid Martin is a member of our Care Team, a beloved member of our church, and frequent contributor to BeyondBelief.online. If someone you know is considering suicide, we encourage and train our Care Team in the QPR method, Question, Persuade, Refer. Read more about this method in, Saving Lives from Suicide. Local to Tulsa, dial 211 for immediate crisis support.  211 is a free and confidential link to help and hope for those in need – whatever the need – 24/7, to get connected to the right community services near you, including crisis support. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. To our members and community, if you are struggling, in any way, the All Souls Care Team is available 24/7, (918) 724-8326 or careteam@allsoulschurch.org. Find support groups and small groups, helping you to keep connected and grounded on our website, allsoulschurch.org/programs.  

Another way to stay connected
Touchstone Circles   
3rd Tuesdays  | 6:30 p.m. | Register: bit.ly/touchstonecircles  

In the midst of many storms: COVID-19, economic stress, and political divisiveness, small groups provide a stable place to rest and refuel. Rooted in deep listening and sharing from the heart, these groups meet our shared need for strength, support, stability and inspiration. 

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