Last night I tried to comfort a friend who was grieving. Having recently gone through a similar thing, I should have done a better job. However I fell into the same trap that we often do in these situations. I focused on me instead of her. I tried to cover my own awkwardness by trying to make her feel better. I forgot what it was like to be in that intense, raw state of pain where no words can fill that dark, bottomless void.
There are not many right words that can be said at a time like that but yet we often find ourselves trying to find them. Rambling on in clichés about time healing wounds, the person being in a better place etc. You don’t want to hear all of those things when you have just lost someone. You don’t care. The pain is so real and vivid that you want to slap someone (or as my friend told me “roll your eyes”) when someone tells you that it will one day fade. It’s hard to think past the current minute you are in, let alone think about the future.
It is only now that I am in months into my own relationship with grief that I have learnt that the pain does fade but that is not something that I could have been told. It is only learnt by days passing. It does get easier but the journey is long and you do still hit the bumps in the road. A few months ago I found myself running out of a rock concert to have a mini meltdown openly on the street. It was the most awkward feeling both for me and for those random strangers who tried to comfort me.
It wasn’t until I tried to console my friend that those awkward fitting shoes of those who had been comforting me were suddenly put on my feet and I was able to walk a mile in their shoes. I could feel the eggshells underfoot that they had been walking on as they dodged and danced their way around me and my moods. As I sat over the other side of the world from her, unable to put my arms around her to give her a hug, I understood the helplessness that a close one can feel when trying to support someone going through grief and the awkwardness a stranger can feel when they find you crying.
Grief is so many things for those it touches; heartbreaking, painful, relentless, dark but also very awkward. We often don’t know what to say or what to do. Both in the case of the person going through it and for those who are supporting them.
So to my friend, I’m sorry. The next text time I will just sit, listen and just be there with you. Whenever and as often as you need me.