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Is There Anything I Can Do?

On the outside looking in, it is so hard to watch and hear and feel someone else’s grief. Words are never quite enough at best and every time they escape my lips I hear the inadequacy of all they say, but nothing is enough. Grief threatens to swallow you whole and at times you wish it would. Days become hazy, and yet this film serves as a comforting blanket shielding you from the reality that you wish you could escape.

When I heard the news of the passing of my step dad, it was horribly sad and unreal and unfair. The reality is I’m a couple thousand miles away in the midst of my life that demands attention. The distractions are plentiful and the familiarity of my surroundings keep my thoughts diverted a great deal of the time, which gives me the opportunity to pretend that all is just fine with the world. Perhaps, I can even tell myself I dreamed THAT call a little over a week ago…until I talk with my mom. It all comes blazing back.

For the exception of one brief time during late adolescence, time being relative of course, my mom and I have always been pretty close. She is a dear, dear friend, more than a mom. For many years we have been pretty in tune with each other, and with each passing year, I feel like I understand her a bit more than I did the previous one.

Through the course of her life, she spent a lot of time counseling others regarding the hardships of life so she knows the official stages of everything, but that can be very different than finding yourself plunked down in the middle of it. It’s hard having such a great physical distance from her right now. I’ve planned a trip out to see her, and I know there is nothing I can DO to alleviate her sorrow, but it doesn’t prevent me from wishing it so.

Now, I just hurt for her. I’m sure that when I make the trip out to see her in a few weeks, the magnitude of Paul’s death will hit me again on a personal level. He will not be there knocking on walls asking who’s there or continually calling my name waiting for me to respond so he can call it again. He also won’t be there to coast in and out of the room where my mom and I and sister will be talking, smiling at the fact that three women bonded by blood can talk and talk and talk and still not run out of things to say. There is something about being in the physical space where our loved ones once resided that makes it real, no longer able to pretend they are off on some kind of exotic adventure only to return with great details of the trip.

I wish there were words I could say that would alleviate the pain my mom is feeling. Last night I told her how much she helped me when our twins died. Just being in her presence was enough for me. No, it didn’t take the pain away, but I knew that she understood that grief as well, having lived it herself. Yes, words were inadequate then too, but the comfort received by just being in the presence of someone who was willing to sit in that uncomfortable silence was somehow also reassuring that there was a light on the other side.

She and others gave me that nugget of wisdom. The words that often spill from well-meaning people can be jarring and hurtful and just plain wrong. In difficult times, it’s important to be with people who are comfortable with the uncomfortable. Maybe that has to be enough.


5 Responses

  1. I never know what to say or do when someone is grieving. When my dad died over 20 years ago I worried a lot about my mom too.

  2. I wish I knew what to say. We are definitely thinking of you and Aunt Barb here in Oregon. Our prayers are with all of you!

  3. Karen, you are absolutely right – and it just doesn’t ever quite go away. I don’t think I realized that until I too experienced profound loss

  4. Amy, Thanks so much. I talked to your mom tonight – she had wonderful things to say about you all. Take care.

  5. I know you are with me and feel your presence all the time. You are doing enough just being the beautiful loving daughter you are. You give me a reason to look forward and not backward every day of your life. I love you very much for the beautiful soul you have.

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