At a certain age, high school classmates begin passing away with regularity. I haven’t hit that age yet, but have lost a few from ’89 to accidents and disease–usually cancer. Very recently, a classmate’s husband (also from our school, though I never had any classes with him) lost a short, intense battle with cancer. It’s an insidious disease.
I’m never sure what to say when someone suffers a loss. Part of that is just plain human shortcoming–what is there to say when someone loses a part of themselves? Part of it is having had my sensitivity meter warped by years of being told (and practicing) that even in grief or sorrow, we should not ever speak to the pain, but only to the promise held by the future. Having broken free of that, I get irritated by denials of tragedy in favor of prompts to be of good cheer. If anything happened to B, I would kick you in the taco for telling me to be of good cheer.
The truth is that there is no right thing to say. And there are times when the only right thing to do is say nothing, and simply offer your presence, or a reminder of it with cards, flowers, or my signature sympathy gift of chocolate.
We’re all different in how we grieve and how we respond to grief. Since I am pretty useless at words of comfort–for real. How are you supposed to offer comfort?! There is no comfort in loss! Sure, time will dull the way the pain initially consumes you, but I still miss loved ones as accutely as I did the day they died–maybe more as time goes on and I want to share my world with them. I’m not going to lie and say it gets better. It just gets…different. So, since I am obviously useless at being a comfort, I try to be a presence in my small ways. Sandbagging against the worst of grief, is how I see it.
If enough of us are there to support the surviving parties, even in the smallest of ways, they’ll have a place to lean and rest. And really, true rest is the best thing you can hope for at the worst times of your life.