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What Simple Acts of Kindness Mean to a Grieving Father

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Today was flat. Flat, grey clouds overhead, flat grey light, flat grey feelings inside. After the wrenching emotional rollercoaster of yesterday, I feel exhausted and encouraged all at the same time. That paradox. I experienced several acts of kindness today that touched me deeply. The simplest of things make such a huge difference now.

I went to get a haircut. My barber, Steven, had cut Jake’s hair on a few occasions and knew him a little. He asked me how I was doing. I told him — Jake, my son, had died from an overdose. The news shocked him. He said, incredulously, “I’m 24 years old.” We talked a bit about Jake, about Steven’s life, about his mother’s illness that sparked a reformation in him. He is on track to open his own barber shop in a few weeks. Bravo. He cut my hair and shaved off my 30-day growth of beard. Carefully, delicately, as he muttered, “We’re gonna make Ed Colman look like a million bucks.” Afterwards, he refused to accept any money. “This one’s on me,” he said. The smallest acts of kindness.

Returning home I found Jake’s elementary school had made a book for us, “PS 1 Remembers Jake Colman.” A beautiful hardbound book with Jake’s poetry, art, photos of him throughout his days in school and several moving tributes from teachers and parents who had the privilege to know him and to teach him. Terry and I read the book with eyes and hearts overflowing. The smallest of acts, unlooked for.

Yesterday, in the midst of the turmoil, we received an unexpected parcel from an old friend containing several packets of different teas, with a note that said simply, “For warming your spirit.” Tea. No big deal, right? But it is what the tea represents. This from the same person who sent us several books on grieving only days after Jake’s passing. A special and dear friend. Simple acts.

These simple acts of kindness from a friend, long ago acquaintances and a near stranger brought a tiny ray of light into my flat grey day. For those brief moments, things were a little less dark, less hopeless. There is still a very long way to go for me, but these bearers of the gift of compassion made a difference in my day, helped share the burden of my grief, even if only for a moment.

And so the day wore on. It is evening now, feeling drained from the past 48 hours. Will tomorrow be different? We’ll find out tomorrow.

Ed and his son, Jake.
Ed and his son, Jake.

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Originally published: March 23, 2016
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