They say death comes in threes: I've recently experienced the loss of a family member as well as a friend. Superstitiously, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's part of the world of grief. Grieving is a surreal state of mind. Everything is a little off, as though the world has turned 3 degrees to the left of where it usually is. I can't quite trust myself or my reactions or how I am showing up in the world. One minute I may feel fine, free of loss, and the next I'm back in it. I'm unaccountably irritated at times. I have no patience. The sadness is always stalking me and it takes me from behind at unexpected times.
I could appear fine to the world, functioning normally, but I feel that strange mood of sadness on me like a troubling blanket. At other times, I seem upset to the world but I'm not feeling anything at all. Grief is a trickster. It takes up a lot of internal space. The times when it is not present leave me feeling guilty that I'm not sad enough, and the times when the grief is there it sucks up all of the oxygen in my life. I have guilt for not being sad enough and guilt for being too sad. More than anything there is a monotony to the grief: it is just there, like a cat sitting on my chest. I just want it to go away.
And you! You need to learn how to talk to me about this! Please don't give me canned statements and false sympathy. Do you think I can't tell when you're making it up or don't know what to say? I'm sad, I'm not blind. Just talk. Say anything! Be REAL! I'd rather hear "Boy, you must be fucked up!" than "Sorry for your loss!" or "I don't know what to say."
There is no right thing to say, but there is a right way to be. I've gotten the most comfort from folks just checking in and saying "How's it going?". There's an ease and permission about that. It lets me answer as much or as little as I need to say at the time. When I'm not in it, I don't want to be reminded of it, or have to tell that story again, and when I'm in it, I'll say what I need. Grief is not a smooth ride for anyone, but it is the opportunity to grow for everyone involved. If you know someone that's grieving, take the opportunity to engage thoughtfully, for both of our sakes.