I never knew what to say to someone when they suffered
the loss of a loved one. Nothing could take away their sorrow, so what words could I give them that would be consoling? Not until I experienced the tragic loss of my four-year-old grandson did I fully appreciate simple acts of kindness. The truth is you don’t have to say anything to a grieving person. Actions, more than words, comforted me. I liked hugs the best. I did find comfort in some expressions of sorrow such as: “I’m so sorry” or “I’m thinking about you and praying for your family,” or “Gabriel must have been a special little boy.” I am told, and I agree, that statements like “It was God’s will” or “God never gives us more than we can handle” are not helpful. Of course, sympathy cards, personal notes, and memorial gifts let me know others cared about my sorrow.
I go to a grief support group called Compassionate Friends with my husband, daughter, and son-in-law. We hear from parents who have experienced the loss of their children. There are so many sad stories. As we go around the table and talk about our pain, I have heard parents say the hardest question comes from people they meet for the first time. It is: “How many children do you have?” If they omit their deceased child, they feel like there are denying their existence. If they include the child, they may be forced to explain the passing of that child and revisit the tragedy.
Of course, I cannot rely on the words or actions of others to resolve my emotional pain. I must find ways myself. My faith keeps me going, but to be honest, sometimes I feel angry. I like what physician and novelist, Edison McDaniels, said in describing his own grief in the death of his son. At the end of his blog post, entitled The Worst Club in the World, he says, “Eventually though, a scar forms. And as with any scar, you can look at it and see pain and suffering. Or you can look at it and see healing.”