What do I say? What can I say?
Since I don’t know, I’ll be silent.
I’m as guilty of this as the next person. There are people whose loss seems gargantuan in comparison to mine. You may wonder how that can be given what we’ve been through, but it’s true.
What do you say to someone who has suffered a devastating loss? Time and time again, I see articles on Facebook, articles about grief, about infertility, about sadness of every type. Those articles always chastise others for saying the wrong thing. We’ve become so afraid of saying the wrong thing that we say nothing at all. We sit by silently as we watch those around us struggle, afraid of causing more hurt – afraid that we’re overstepping our bounds.
The thing is – silence hurts. Looking away hurts. Fading into the background, assuming that someone else will be there for a struggling friend or loved one hurts.
Do you know what grievers want – grievers of every kind? Someone to listen. Someone to be there with them in their grief. We don’t want platitudes. We don’t want to hear “at least.” We don’t want to be fixed, for these wounds can’t be fixed.
We want someone to be willing to just be with us in our pain. Sometimes that means being silent, holding a hand, offering a hug, sharing a cup of coffee and quiet. Sometimes it means listening, as a griever pours out the worst thoughts – the guilt, the hurt, the sorrow, the what-ifs, the regrets.
It means not trying to fix it or make us feel better. Nothing can fix us. We need to grieve. And we need to do it on our own time line. Grief contracts and expands without concern for what we want or need.
Last night, I received a text from someone that I barely know. She’d read something that concerned her. Her words to me (some of them anyway): “None of us can pretend to really know how you feel, if we have not lost a child. But any mother among us knows such a loss is our worst fear. I won’t insult you by saying I understand. But I care…Just know it’s ok not to be ok.” And then she offered to meet me for coffee.
This is what you say. This is what you do. And in turn, I will do it for others. I’ll keep reaching out. Because what’s the point of being on this rotating ball, zipping around the sun, if we’re not going to love and support one another? Call someone that you know is struggling today. Tell them that they’re loved, and you think about them. It’s so easy to do, and it can help pull our fragmented society together.