How should you respond when you lose someone who has changed your life?

Over the last few weeks, the world has lost some men and women who have greatly impacted my life. Some I knew personally, and others have impacted me from a distance through books and other media. These are all people, though, that I have found strength and direction from over the year’s most often when they did not even know they were giving it. These people, these World Changers, while also impacting the lives of many others, have left a permanent mark that continues to help me be the person God has created me to Be.

And for that, I am grateful to each one.

What has been interesting and unexpected as I have received word of each one’s passing, is how deeply the end of their lives has impacted me. Different than the loss of a close family member or friend, I was not close to any of these. I knew some of them, but from a distance when at all. And yet, the end of their lives has left me feeling a little less confident in myself and the future while also asking who, if anyone, will ever be able to take their place. Thankfully, we can all still be influenced through what they have left behind, but with the world as upside down as it is, the absence of their voices will leave a void. 

The question that I am left to answer, though, is: “How should I respond when someone who has made an impact on me passes on?” Instead of simply acknowledging that they are gone and that their loss will be felt, how can I live in a way that reflects who they are and what they have meant to me?

This is a question that all of us should ask when the influencers and World Changers move on. And, when we answer this question clearly and correctly, the way that we live will allow us to take what they have done for us and impact those that we have the opportunity to influence. Then, their life and our lives become a legacy that outlives both. 

How should you respond when you lose someone who has changed your life?

1. We Need to Grieve

Grief is a natural and necessary part of the healing process. It is important to allow ourselves to feel the pain and sadness that comes with losing someone that has made a difference in our lives. This can seem like a strange place to start specifically if we did not personally know the person we are grieving, but even if only from a distance, we develop an emotional attachment to those we allow to speak into our lives. The availability of video and audio along with social and written media can make us FEEL like we know someone even when we do not. Since they are speaking into our lives and helping to form the way that we think and act, we can develop many of the same emotions for them that we would have of a close friend or family member. 

Also connected is the fact that many of these people become a source of comfort and clarity for us when we struggle. There are authors that I return to when I need help in my marriage, speakers that I listen to when I am trying to understand the culture, and podcasts that regularly provide motivation for daily life. These, and many others, can become the source of ongoing help which causes me to develop a connection to the people who produce them. 

As strange as it may sound, take the time to grieve.

Everyone grieves differently, and it’s okay to process our emotions in our own unique way. Whether it’s through tears, writing, talking to loved ones, or seeking professional support, giving ourselves permission to grieve is a crucial step towards moving forward.

2. We Need to Celebrate and Give Thanks for Their Life

Instead of dwelling solely on the loss, we can choose to celebrate and give thanks for the life and impact of the person who has passed away. Reflecting on their positive contributions, cherished memories, and the lessons we have learned from them can bring comfort and solace. We honor a life well-lived when, instead of focusing on what has been lost, we appreciate all that has been gained!

A person who has lived for others does not want the sum total of their lives to be what was. They lived for others so that they could contribute in a way that would equip the following generations to continue moving forward long after their own death. Celebrate what they did but give thanks for their life’s continuing impact!

3. We Need to Evaluate Our Own Lives

The loss of others can serve as a powerful reminder of the fragility and preciousness of life. It prompts us to evaluate our own lives and reflect on our priorities, values, and purpose. It’s a chance to re-examine our choices and make intentional decisions about how we want to live moving forward. It can inspire us to pursue our passions, nurture relationships, and live with greater meaning and purpose, knowing that life is a gift to be cherished.

4. We Need to Decide to Live for Others

One of the most meaningful ways to honor the memory of someone who has impacted our lives is to live our own lives in a way that positively impacts others. It’s about stewarding our time, talents, and resources to make a difference in the lives of those around us. It’s about being a role model, embodying the qualities and values that the person we lost embodied, and inspiring others by our actions. It’s about living a life that is worthy of celebration, so that we, in turn, can be remembered with honor and admiration.

It is about deciding that WE will fill the void left by their absence. 

What a wonderful opportunity we have to learn and grow through the influence of men and women whose lives change the world (or at least our world). As much as it hurts when they are lost, we must live out and carry forward the legacy that they have left behind.


Photo by Jarl Schmidt on Unsplash