I went to a funeral today.
They have a way about making you think about death. And grief. And loss. And unfairness. And hope. And Heaven.
Admittedly, after losing Rory, hope and heaven took a long time to enter my thoughts, to penetrate my soul, to soothe my heart.
My friend lost her Dad. She’s my age. He’s my parents’ age.
I thought about my old friend a lot this week. If you look under the definition of introvert in the dictionary, you will find her there. My heart ached and cringed at the thought of all the well-meaning, mostly-loving and kind-intentioned people and words about to come her way. I nodded in complete agreement when a mutual friend whispered at the funeral, “I just want to steal her away and hide her.”
I can still remember after Rory died one lady hugging me and whispering for a good two minutes possibly all of the most cliché “comforts” in my ear. All I could do was nod and wish for her to stop talking. Words that were supposed to comfort made me feel angry. Hurt. Alone. I wasn’t ready for hope and Heaven and faith and time and healing and “it’ll get better”.
In time, I did realize most of those “comforts” were true. “Time” does make it “better”, but for me, hearing that right after my loss felt more like a taunt than a condolence. I didn’t want it to be better. I didn’t want time to take me away to a place she would never be. I didn’t want to “get over it” as if losing my daughter was akin to teenagers breaking up.
Ah, but time is a tricky thing. And now, three years later, I became that person I so feared I would become. I regained my faith, I survived the pain, and now… I’m living. Thriving, even. Without her. And in those early days of loss, looking into my future, thinking about how a life full of love and laughter without her… it felt like betrayal. It felt wrong. I hated knowing life would go on.
I often joked about how I should write a book on what not to say to people who are grieving. But it would be a very long book. And it would contradict itself. Because words spoken one year may have been offensive, but as the heart works to heal itself, those same words may become a balm. And then there are words only friends are allowed to say, thoughts only family is allowed to voice, and feelings only the person grieving is allowed to express. So really, I guess I would write the book for the griever. And it would say to hold your breath and nod. To not take too hard what people are saying. To try to have the grace to know they are only trying to offer peace, solace, and comfort. They are trying to love you. To show you they care. In my experience, having someone acknowledge my loss, even if it was in a cliché, awkward, cringing, or “did you REALLY just say that” way was, in the end, better than them never acknowledging my pain.
Days like these remind me of how my “it won’t happen to me” program is broken. The unthinkable happened to me. The tragic happened to my friend. It happens all the time. This thing we call life is such a ridiculously fragile thing. But maybe that’s what makes it so precious. Why we hang on to it so tenaciously. Why we cry so hard when it’s taken away. So I guess in closing… all I can say is live and love well.
We don’t know how much time we have. Or how much time they have.