by Steve Adubato, PhD

Very often, we don’t know what to say or how to communicate in difficult, painful and tragic situations. Sometimes, when we are confused and perplexed in this way, we choose not to communicate at all. A friend or a relative has lost someone close to them and we are so overwhelmed that we don’t reach out, we don’t call, and we don’t send a note. We don’t even e-mail or text.

Yet, not communicating to someone we care about when they suffer a terrible loss communicates more than we can imagine. Try to consider what it is like to be on the other end—the person who has lost a loved one in an unexpected tragedy.

Last month, one of my closest childhood friends, Millie Dermanjian, lost her 19-year-old daughter Rebecca in a car accident in Budd Lake. Beckey, as she was known by family and friends, was the light of not just Millie and her husband Ken’s eyes, but everyone else around her. The worst situation that any parent dreads is losing their child. Understandably, Millie and Ken were inconsolable and even though several weeks have passed, the pain must still be unbearable.

Yet, according to Millie, she was overwhelmed by how many people communicated in powerful and poignant ways, not just with sympathy for their loss, but compassion and empathy that she found comforting and consoling in the most unimaginable circumstances.

Said Millie; “Though the car accident that took our daughter’s life broke our hearts because it took Beckey from us, we have been comforted by the incredible kindness of our friends, neighbors, and in general the people of Budd Lake and Mount Olive Township. Many who know of Beckey’s passing know of the tree memorial that community members and Beckey’s friends erected in her honor at the site of the accident. This is just one example of how the surrounding community has uplifted us.”

But it was just not family and friends that went above and beyond. Millie talked of how the police department of Mount Olive and the fire department and EMTs of Budd Lake went above and beyond the call of duty. Said Millie; “It was not in their job description to send us flowers, as did the Mount Olive police department; or attend Beckey’s wake, as did the EMTs who cared for Beckey; or offer its firehouse for the repast, as did the Budd Lake fire department.”

In talking with Millie, it was apparent how grateful she was to the many people who sought to honor Beckey and support her family in their time of loss. Hundreds attended Beckey’s wake and funeral, and many visited their home to give an embrace, food, flowers, cards and other tokens of affection and remembrance. “We are touched by this outpouring of support and love, for it speaks volumes about not only the type of person Beckey was but also the character of the people who live here. We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts, and we feel fortunate to be a part of such a caring community.”

Clearly, as Millie Dermanjian described, there were many ways countless people communicated their feelings of grief and support. Not just in words, but in actions. Ask yourself if you had lost a loved one—especially a child—what would you want or need from others?

P.S.—Finally, the tribute to Beckey Dermanjian’s memory will continue, particularly in the form of a scholarship in her name through Monmouth University, where she had excelled as a freshman. If you are interested in making a donation to the Rebecca Dermanjian Scholarship Fund, you can do so through the office of Institutional Advancement at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ 07764.