A very close friend of mine’s elderly father is very close to the end of his time. Maybe days, maybe weeks or months. He has been in and out of the hospital and hospice, and every time someone sees him, it might be there last. But that is not the point of this post. I talk to my friend and I am at a loss as to what I can say about what he is going through. The words just are not there.
My father passed away when I was young, sixteen, suddenly, without warning, and while he was away from home. I talk to my friend and I listen to what he is going through, and although I listen and understand and feel for him, I just can not emotionally relate to it and can not empathize with him. I don’t have the mutual experience and have never gone through the pain and agony of a parent slowly drawn to death. I know, or think I know, that it is very difficult, emotionally draining, and almost all consuming of life. But – I have no reference point to truly empathize with him, although as his friend I can sympathize with him. I never went through it, I never had the experience of those emotions. Although we talk, and I listen to him, and I give him words of encouragement and try to ease his pain, I am at a loss to really know what to say. It is a horrible feeling to be with someone and not to be able to ease their pain.
What is the point of this you ask? Well, almost all of you, my friends, relatives, and colleagues, are in the same situation I am in, but with Dorothy and I. You want to help, you want to comfort us, and you want to help us heal, but you don’t know what to say. You are at a loss for words. You look at us and the words just fail to come out. We can not count how many times people look at us and have said that they feel bad because they don’t know what to say. Some people have actually avoided us because they are at a loss for words, or they can’t deal with our loss. Trust me, what happened to us not contagious.
We understand. We really do. We are thankful that you are blessed and do not share our pain, that you have not experienced the devastating loss we have and that we live with each and every day, and that you go home at night and kiss your children goodnight. We are truly happy for you.
What I know is that anything that you say to us or do with us helps. Sometimes is it not words. Sometimes just a hug means so much to us. Yea, we might cry, but we need to. And if you cry with us, that is fine as well. Andrew touched so many lives that people have to cry to remember and grieve him. A short e-mail or letter saying you are thinking about us makes all the difference in our day. We thank those of you who have spent time with us to talk about life, make us smile, make us laugh a bit, and bring some joy to our lives. We are happy to get a letter in the mail telling us you are thinking about us, or share a story about Andrew with us that we have never heard. A hug. A hello. Something to read about him, or tell us what is going on in your life – everything helps.
What can I say? There are no words. There are no words that will make us feel better. There are no words that will bring our son home. There are no words that will make us stop our grieving. So don’t feel bad when you can not find the words to say to us when you see us or talk to us. There are no words.
There are no words.