You know, normally I’m not at a loss for words. On the blog or otherwise. But this week. Meh. Not so chatty. You see, the young son of a good friend just died. He was fourteen. And we’re all kind of gobsmacked.
I had a long chat with my mum today. Funny, isn’t it, to be sixty years old and still asking your mum for advice? Mum was widowed at age 23 when her first husband was killed. My older brother and sisters were 4 years, 2 years and 5 weeks old respectively. Mum says she doesn’t remember much about the aftermath of that tragedy. But today she spoke of one friend whom she remembers as being of particular comfort to her. And that’s because the friend was content to just sit quietly, sometimes “do” my mum’s hair, and never seemed to feel compelled to fill the silence with chatter. Mum said she remembers hating all the chatter. I guess the chatterers with their kindly meant aphorisms were doing what Megan Devine would call trying to “fix the unfixable.”
I remember the first winter after I retired, when Hubby had his heart operation, how at a loss I was afterward when he seemed to want to only look at the negative. How my Pollanna-ish comments, and constant looking for the bright side, only seemed to annoy him. And a counselor I know told me to stop trying to make him be positive. That I should simply be acknowledging his pain and anger. Not trying to make it go away. I was trying to fix him, and his depression, I guess.
One thing I found really helpful during that rather stressful time was something a psychologist friend posted on Facebook. That “no empathetic statement ever started with at least.” Oh my. That’s exactly what all his friends had been doing. At least you’re alive. At least you didn’t have a heart attack. At least Susan is retired now and can be home all the time. Something else that comes to mind about those first few months after I retired and Hubby was ill is that all my friends seemed to have disappeared. A couple of years later, I remember remarking that I found it lonely that first winter. And a friend said, “…well… you have lots of friends…they must have been around.” Ah. Not so much. Most were still working. And the others, well, not sure what happened there, to tell you the truth.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to equate my young friend’s obviously heartbreaking loss with what I felt during Hubby’s illness. Not at all. I’m just saying that maybe some of what I learned that winter can help me to be more helpful for her.
|Fresh snowfall today, on the Rideau.|
So I guess where I’m going with all of this is that even if I have no clue how my friend is feeling, I do have a clue what I might do (and not do) to help. Because I do want to help. I know she has lots of loving family around her. And many old friends her own age, to whom she is closer than to me. But I do not want to assume that she has no need for an older, old friend.
So I’ll do my best just to be present for her. If and when I’m needed. I will not say “at least”, and hopefully not try to “fix the unfixable.” I will try not to chatter if chatter is not what she wants. We might go for a walk. I could bring muffins and tea, if she feels like muffins and tea. Whatever. Because of course as my mum wisely said, “everyone is different in their grief.” And I guess my first step is to find out what my grieving young friend needs. And doesn’t need.
It’s a start anyway.