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.

1 thought on “Sympathies”

  1. Hi Lane,

    A good friend of my husband recently passed away to prostate cancer. It was a long battle and the poor guy did everything he possibly could to beat it. He was young (had just turned 39) and had two young children and a partner who looked after him from the first diagnosis until the end. After a failed marriage, the poor guy finally found someone in his life that made him happy, did not want anything from him other than to look after him and make him as comfortable as he could be. I met her at a house warming/birthday party and can honestly say that I have never seen so much love in her eyes. Not only for this dying man she had taken in to care for but for love of life. She was radiant, warming, and I honestly felt good being around her. I can see why he had just found “the love of his life and his soul mate”.
    When he passed away on Christmas night last week, I felt numb when my husband gave me the news I was not prepared for. I did not know what to say or do. All I could think of was his children.
    I just hope that he is now at a better place.

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