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Reality Check

September 9, 2006

If you’ve noticed the books I’m reading sidebar you’ll see one of them is a self-help book for the grief process. And, if you read my blog you can clearly see it is definitely a process I can use self-help on.

The book is broken into days of the year, each day is a quote related to grief and the grief process, and then the author writes a small commentary on how she reflects on the quote and how it could relate to the general grieving population.

My Mom visited a family friend on Monday evening, one that she hasn’t really seen since my Dad died. She was walking in her neighborhood and decided to stop by. As soon as she walked in and sat down the friend expressed her sympathies, “How do you do it? You have to start your life over! You have to learn how to live your life all over again, this time alone.” As my Mom relayed the story to me the next day, we both laughed, and then we both talked of our appreciation at someone letting us speak of the reality of the experience. She does have to start over and it is really hard and she doesn’t really know how she’s going to do it, she just is.

And, overall it really fucking sucks.

We talked more about how good it feels when people let you speak the truth of it, when even though they may be totally freaked out and scared, they let you share that fear and help you process it by just talking about it, admitting it, letting it live outside of our jumbled minds.

After we got off the phone, I picked up the Grief book to read that days entry. It was so fitting- as many of them are, a reason I really like the book- I never thought of sharing pieces of the book here, yet since Tuesday’s caught my attention and so was fitting to something my Mom and I are both experiencing, I thought it could be good to share…so here it is:

“I sometimes hold it half a sin

To put in words the grief I feel;

For words, like nature, half reveal

And half conceal the Soul within. “

— Alfred Tennyson

It’s so hard to explain how we feel. When friends ask, and we sense that it’s more than a routine polite inquiry, we want to tell them. Yet what to say?

The same anxiety besets those who try to express condolences. How many times have we heard people who’ve come from visiting a grieving friend lament, “I don’t know whether I was any help at all. I didn’t know what to say.”

We know, since we’ve been on the receiving end of expressions of sympathy, that what is said is not as important as that the person has come to be with us, though it is possible to say “the wrong thing.” A couple of mine are, “It’s providential,” and, “I’m sorry your daughter has graduated to the higher consciousness”!

But with few exceptions, the expression of love and the caring is what matters, not the words. In the same way, we who are groping to express our grief don’t need to worry about acuracy or whether we’re getting it all just right.

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