A high school freshman slid into the driver’s seat. His mind turning over roles, responsibilities and options: should he drive, sit in the passenger seat, or move to the back. What would mom say? He unconsciously longed to fill his father’s shoes. Stinging grief paralyzed his thinking. Funeral procession move slowly but he only held a learner’s permit. Pallbearers loaded his dad into the hearse. He knew nothing would be the same, but knew he had no idea what that meant.
Lost in his grief he did not notice the passenger door open. His dad’s friend eased his six foot four frame into the passenger seat. The decision was made. With a steady hand filling the passenger seat the teen grasped the gearshift and eased the car into drive. Not fully alone they pulled out into an uncertain future. A few months later, when the family moved to Nashville his dad’s friend reassured him again promising, “we are a phone call away”. Although he rarely called, somehow that knowledge comforted and consoled a young man facing life without his father, his father, his provider.
Forty years later, the teen recalled the clarity, confidence and support the simple act of filling the passenger seat gave him. On a day he could do nothing but grieve, he drove.
It seems to me grief support is much like that. We slide into the passenger seat and ride along as those mourning drive slowly back into life. Our words may be forgotten, but our presence buoys those traveling through grief.