On grief, loss, and sorrow

a friend at work lost their spouse to cancer.
what do I tell them?

My condolences?
trite, cliche. meaningless.

About my losses, and that I understand their pain?
This feels like I would be making it about me.

That I am sorry? – it is not my fault

To let me know if I can do anything?
I am not that close of a friend -it would be an empty gesture.

What do I want to communicate? t
That I feel for them. That they are not alone in their grief. That any way they cope will be ok and I won’t be judging it. that I understand how bad it sucks. that I am surprised and impressed that they are at work. that I am sorry to bring it up – because I dont know – they may have been trying to focus on work and not think about it.

what do I want to accomplish? (how do I want them to feel because I said something?)
I don’t know.
when I lost my dad I felt numb. I knew intellectually that people understood – but never really felt that.

There was pain that cut through the numbness – it was the physical pain of some important part of me – gone. an emptiness. a hunger that wasn’t a “feed me” but instead a gaping wound that could never be filled. I am not sure that there *is* anything anyone could have said that would do anything to help. Instead it usually felt like I was obligated to comfort them. I can see that I may just be talking myself out of saying anything at all.

When my premature baby son died after 3 days the pain was surprisingly familiar – I was able to tell my wife that the while the pain would not go away (and who would want it too – a loved one is lost ) it would become bareable – and life would go on. And she would even be able to be happy again in time.

After some thought – I discovered that what I want to ensure that they know is either:
1. If they have had someone close die before, the feeling of loss and pain is familiar. Remember that it does lessen.
2. If this is a new experience, know that that empty feeling does become bearable, and even comforting (in memorandum, etc.)

Obviously, this is not complete. Maybe our ideas on how to handle and comfort others with grief and loss and pain are never finalized – but continue to grow and change.

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